August 2014 Lip Monthly Unbagging

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I am something of a subscription box junkie.  I just love the idea of having stuff delivered right to my door and getting a surprise treat every month.  This is a brand new subscription service called Lip Monthly.  This is their fourth month on the market I believe.   Now, I’ll be honest and say I don’t have the best relationship to lip color.  Shopping for lipsticks and glosses and stains makes me nervous because I don’t think I’ve figured out exactly what colors look the best on me yet.  So, when I heard about this service that sends you 3-4 full-size lip products per month for only $10? I was totally on board because it would take out the guess work for me and expose me to products or colors that I might not have picked up.  That’s the point of these boxes, right?

That said, I have heard some not great things about this new company starting out.  I watched a lot of Youtube reviews of the previous months and people were complaining that the products were old and discontinued or that the brands were no longer current.  I cannot speak to that because, as you will see below, that has not been my experience of the company, but you can find my overall thoughts on this bag and subscription service at the very end of the post.

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This is my August bag.  This is the first month that has come in an actual makeup bag (previously it came in a small box and clear cellophane bag) and this is the first month with a theme – “Lips 101.”  As you can see the bag is a pretty basic makeup bag that is blue and says Lip Monthly all over it.  It’s a great size though and feels like really good quality.  You really can never have too many little bags like this though. Each bag also come with a little card detailing the theme, the products you got, and the prices of each product.  I’m going to go through each product and I will leave a picture of the swatches down below.

The first product I got is Jesse’s Girl Cosmetics Liquid Glass Lip Gloss in Lip Lock.  This is full-size, but it’s a nice small gloss.  I have heard of Jesse’s Girl but never tried any products.  I believe you can only buy them at Rite Aid and there isn’t one near me in Chicago.   This is a really pretty bubble gum pink color and it is a sticky gloss.  It also smells like Play-Doh, which is odd.  It retails for $4.99 and on the Jesse’s Girl website, it looks like the packaging may have changed.  So yes, this is a potentially old product, but it came fully sealed in clear cellophane.

The next thing I got is City Color Cosmetics Magic Balm.  I have a cream eye shadow from this brand that I really like.  It is a cheaper brand – I don’t think they sell anything over $10, but the brand isn’t bad quality.  This product is in really cute packaging.  It’s a sheer pink balm that looks like a lipstick.  I kind of wonder if this is one of those balms that changes color based on your skin and body temperature.  It definitely took on different pink hues when I swatched it on my arm versus my lips.  It’s really pretty and lightweight, and it feels really moisturizing on.  I will be honest and say that I could not find this product anywhere on the City Color website, but again it came completely sealed.  My card says this retails for $3.99

Next is a City Color Cosmetics Be Matte Lipstick in Phoebe.  This is a full-size lipstick that retails for $3.99.  It’s a dark berry color that is really pretty, definitely great for fall.  It is a little drying, but that is pretty typical of matte lip products.  This also came completely sealed and is current; you can buy this on the City Color website right now.

Up next is a City Color Cosmetics Lip Balm in Ultra Pink.  Again, this is full-size and retails for $2.99, and it came fully sealed.  This smells like cherries to me.  It’s a really pretty red-orange color and it goes on so smoothly.  I really like this as a balm with a bit of color.  This is also a current product available on the City Color website.

My final product is what they call the “monthly mixup.”  In addition to your lip products, each month they send you another beauty related item.  This month it is a Lid Last Shadow Pen by Pixi in Gentle Gold.  I have been seeing a lot of Pixi products both from Ipsy and Birchbox, but I’ve never gotten to try one.  This is an eyeshadow pen that goes from cream to powder.  It is silky smooth and the color is a light, shimmery gold.  It’s a great neutral color and I’m probably the most excited about this, of everything that came in the bag.  It is full-size and retails for $18.  It is also current and available on the Pixi website.

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That is everything that was in my bag this month.  It is a $10 bag and I got $31 worth of products, which is pretty good value.  That being said – I’m not sure I want to keep this subscription.  It is a new company, so kinks are still being worked out I’m sure, but there are a few things I’ve noticed.  For starters, this subscription isn’t customizable yet.  You don’t take a beauty quiz or anything like that, so the colors that get sent out seem random.  That may be something they are going to change in the future though.  Specific to this bag, I am really not thrilled about getting three products from one brand.  I do subscriptions to try lots of different brands, so getting three things from City Color is a little disappointing.  I also think it says something that the item I am most excited for in a lip product subscription box is not a lip product at all.   As far as some products being old, that doesn’t particularly bother me.  Everything came individually sealed, so these products aren’t used.  Makeup has a shelf-life if it’s unopened, anywhere from 1-5 years depending on the product.  Nothing smells or looks rancid, so getting older products isn’t a huge deal to me (though I don’t feel like I got any old products this month).

Overall, not super impressed by this bag.  I want to give it one more month, just to see if they’ll send a better variety of products next month.  If you want to read more about the company, you can click here to go to their website (this is not a referral link, it just goes to the Lip Monthly homepage).   They are currently running a promotion to get your first box for $6.99 if you use the code SUMMERLIPS.   I hate to leave this on a bummer note, but I’m not feeling it from this bag.

August 2014 Ipsy Unbagging

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I really do love subscription box / bag time in the middle of the month.  Maybe it’s just me, but I love getting mail – and I do mean love – so finding a small packages in my mailbox just makes me happy.  What is it about getting something in the mail that makes it feel special? Anyway, my August Ipsy bag was in my mailbox this morning, so it’s time for an unbagging! Since I’m doing it for my Birchbox, in the spirit of fairness and continuity, before I get into this month’s products, I’m going to take a look at how I fared with July’s products.  So if you just want to see the new stuff, keep scrolling.

bareMinerals 5-in-1 BB Cream Eyeshadow: I like the idea of this product.  Cream shadows are really fun and this one has a fantastic formula.  So creamy and lovely.  The color I got sent (Divine Wine) was way too dark for me though, so I ended up tossing this after a couple of tries.

Elizabeth Mott Tints & Sass: Again, I like the idea of this product.  I’ve always liked the idea of lip stains because it seems so easy and hassle free.  This product is really streaky and runny, and wore off in a very patchy manner.  It smelled great though.

POP Beauty Bronzer: I love this product, but not as a bronzer.  It’s too dark for me, so instead I’ve been using it as a neutral eyeshadow.  It’s a great all over lid color and the formula is super creamy and pigmented.

pur-lisse Moisturizer with SPF: Huge dud.  Just made my skin oily and broken out.

Faith Aromatherapy Lotion: Still not a huge fan of the scent, but this lotion wasn’t bad.  The scent softens as you warm up the product in your hands, and the lotion feels really good on.

So overall, July was not the best month.  3 of the 5 products I was sent got thrown out before I’d finished them.  It feels wasteful, not gonna lie, but that’s just how it is some months.  Now it’s time to move on to August!

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The theme for August is “Beauty Schooled,” paying homage to the fact that lots of students are heading back to the classroom this month.  Most of the products sampled this month are what I would call “basics” – staples of your makeup bag.  The bag everything came in this month is cute.  It’s a cylindrical white bag with tangerine orange polka dots.  Fitting in with the school theme, it looks like a pencil bag, which is actually how I might use it.  It’s super cute.  It is, however, super plasticky and it smells like a Sanrio store (remember those?).

The first item I got is Your the Balm Lip Balm in Green Apple.  This is by the brand Absolute.  It’s a basic, potted lip balm.  It smells and tastes exactly like green apple, and it feels nice on.  Not a fan of potted lip products because they’re messy and not very hygienic, since you have to stick your finger in it.  Still, this is a full-size product.  It comes in a pair with a grape lip balm for $6, making this item worth $3.

The next thing I got is GlamGlow Youthmud Tinglexfoliate Treatment. This is a face mask that is supposed to exfoliate, which I’ve been really into lately.  It smells really good, though I can’t quite pinpoint the scent.  It’s light and refreshing, slightly floral.  This is a sample size, and it’s pretty small at only .5 ounces, but this clocks in at a whopping $20 value, as the full-size retails for $69 (which makes me hope I don’t like it because that is way out of my face mask budget range).

My next sample is Urban Decay Perversion Mascara.  Everyone got an Urban Decay sample this month of either this new mascara or a new 24/7 Velvet eyeliner.  This mascara promises to make your lashes bigger, blacker, and badder, and I’ve been seeing a lot of good things about it, so I’m super excited to get this in my bag. It is a sample size at .1 ounces, so it is worth about $5.50, since the full-size retails for $22.

Up next is a comically tiny Lord & Berry Black Silk Kajal Kohl Eyeliner.  Seriously, this pencil is the size of  my pinky finger and thin, so it’s not easy to hold (and I’m guessing then, not easy to apply).  I have never heard of this brand before, and I’m over getting black liners, but I guess you can never have too many, if you like black liner (I don’t).  I swatched it on my hand and it felt very pencil-y.  It’s hard and a little rough, but it’s a super pigmented black.  The full-size retails for $18, and I can’t find exactly how big this mini pencil is, so I’d guess this sample is worth about $3.

My last sample is Manna Kadar Cosmetics Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion. This is another brand that is completely new to me.  This is a face and body lotion that is supposed to make your skin look like it’s glowing.  I was a little scared of this at first; it comes out of the tube pink.  It blends super well though and just made my skin look slightly sparkly and dewy, maybe even a little tan.  I like that it doesn’t smell. It’s an interesting product for sure.  This is a sample size at .27 oz, so it is worth about $7.83, since the full-size is $29.

That is everything in my August 2014 “Beauty Schooled” Ipsy bag.  These are all really basic products and I think I will probably like everything in this bag, or at least get some use out of them. The value of this bag works out to around $39, which is awesome for a $10/month bag. I’m going to leave the coupon codes that Ipsy gave out for these products and brands this month, so if you like any of these products or brands, you can take advantage.  If you like what you see and want to sign up for Ipsy, you can click here for all the details.

August 2014 Coupon Codes:

  • 20% off any purchase and free sample of “Liplocked” from mannakadarcosmetics.com with code IPSY20 (valid until 9/30)
  • 30% off any purchase at nicka.com with code IPSY (valid until 9/11)
  • 30% off any purchase at glamglowmud.com with code IPSY30 (valid until 9/30)
  • 25% off any purchase at lordandberry.com with code LAB@14901 (valid until 10/15)

August 2014 Birchbox Unboxing

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It is that time of the month again – subscription box time! I will have three unboxings this month and am adding a new one to the mix, but the first box to arrive this month was my trusty Birchbox.  Like last month, I thought I’d start by giving you a rundown of how I fared with my July samples.  Knowing that I have to tell you guys how I feel about the products definitely encourages me to use them and try them the month that I get them.  If you want to get right to the August goodies, just keep scrolling.

Ruffian Nail Laquer & Polish Remover: I knew I’d love this and I absolutely do.  The polish is the typically fantastic, one coat and done quality I expect from Ruffian and the color is beautiful.  The polish remover towelette worked well.  I loved that it was black.  As for the perfumed part? No so much.  It just smelled like alcohol.  But one towelette took off all ten nails.

Benefit Posiebalm: I have a new favorite lip balm.  I love the creaminess of this product.  It feels so good on! Now I want to try all the other varieties.

Agave Oil Treatment:  This was okay.  It didn’t strike me as working any miracles on my hair, but it did make it feel soft and smelled nice.  Probably wouldn’t buy it.

Vasanti Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator: I love scrubs, but I’m on the fence about this one.  I love the fineness of the scrub, but every time I’ve used this, my face has broken out after, which I don’t love.

Harvey Prince Hello Body Cream: Another love! This smells so yummy and makes my hands feel so soft.  I did figure out that it is a scent dupe for Bath & Body Works Coconut Lime Verbena though.

Overall, July’s box was the hit I thought it would be.  It was definitely one of my better boxes.  On to August though!

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The theme for August is “Lighten Up,” which is great advice for what can be a long, hot month.  Birchbox is really stepping up their game lately.  First off, the mailer this month came addressed to, “The Glorious Martha,” which was such a cute touch.  Everyone’s is different I believe.  I’ve seen some that are wonderful, lovely, charming, and I’m sure there are more.  This was also another month that Birchbox allowed some subscribers to pick a sample.  Instead of a choice between two samples, this time you could choose either one of four samples (an eyeliner, a bronzer, a cream eyeshadow, or a lip stain) OR you could choose to receive a specific box called the Every Girl Box (I don’t remember what was supposed to be in this box).  I opted to be completely surprised because I couldn’t decide.

My first sample this month is Harvey Prince Ageless Perfume.  This is a really nice, light pink grapefruit scented perfume that is supposed to make you smell “8-12 years younger.”  I don’t know how exactly a perfume can do that, but this smells lovely and refreshing.  I spritzed some on as soon as I got it.

My next sample is Number 4 Hair Super Comb Prep & Protect.  This is a spray on, leave-in conditioner.  I sampled the Number 4 shampoo and hair mask a couple of months ago and liked them.  This smells very much like a salon product (slightly chemically, to be honest).  I’m interested to see how this compares to my current favorite conditioning spray by Beauty Protector.

The next sample is Paula’s Choice RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum.  That is a mouth full.  This sample is HUGE though and the packaging is really cool.  You just twist up the silver top and a pump pops out.  I put a little of this on the back of my hand.  When it first came out, I thought it would be really oily, but it left my hand feeling silky.  I will definitely be using this around my eyes because I have been having a lot of issues with dry, crackled skin under my eyes lately and this is supposed to moisturize and smooth.  It also has no scent or color, which is good for skin care products.

Next is theBalm Cosmetics Stainiac in Beauty Queen.  This was one of the samples you could choose to receive this month.  It is your basic lip and cheek stain.  This one is a gel formula though, which I think I’ll like.  My issue with stains usually is that they’re too liquid-y and get everywhere.  This is also a really nice pink color on the lips, even though it looks dark red in the package.

My final sample this month is Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream in Acai Grapefruit.  I have seen so many people get this in their Birchboxes and have been dying to try it, so I am so excited to finally have one.  This product is also exclusive to Birchbox, which is pretty neat.  This is another really good sized sample and it smells so fruity and citrusy.  This went straight into the shower so I can try it out over the next few days.

That is all that was in my August 2014 Birchbox.  I think this month is going to be another big hit for me.  I’m honestly really excited about all of the products I got sent this month, and I see myself using them and incorporating them into my daily routine.  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.

Here’s to a lightened up August!

Ebola in My Back Yard

Emory University Hospital, where two US healthcare workers who contracted the Ebola virus are being transferred this week.
Emory University Hospital, where two US healthcare workers who contracted the Ebola virus are being transferred this week.

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Now that I live in Chicago, I often joke that my hometown of Atlanta only makes the news here when something bad or stupid or  both has happened.  Atlanta made the news back in January or February for their ineptitude for dealing with the snow, then again in April when the legislature passed a law allowing guns to be carried in schools, bars, and churches.  The most recent Georgia news item that got Chicago’s attention was a Georgia man who may have intentionally left his toddler in a hot car, resulting in the child’s death.

This week though, Atlanta captured national attention when Emory University announced that they would be treating two American healthcare workers who contracted the Ebola virus while providing aid in Africa.  When I first saw the headline, “Emory University Hospital to Treat Ebola Patient in Atlanta,” on the Chicago Tribune’s website, I will admit that I was initially shocked.  I was shocked because Atlanta had been chosen, versus dozens of other hospitals in the United States.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  Emory is a renowned medical and educational institution and they are mere steps from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  Where better to bring someone suffering from a virus that is still not well understood?

Reactions to Emory’s decision and to the US decision to bring Ebola into the United States for the first time are varied.  On my own Facebook news feed, I’ve had a mixture of folks posting flow charts that basically tell everyone to calm down and people who are upset and afraid.  And I get it.  Ebola is a scary disease, made even scarier by the fact that there is no cure and there is a startlingly high mortality rate (I’ve read as high as 60%).   The current outbreak is the worst in modern history I believe, with well over 1300 documented cases.  But here’s the thing – the current West African Ebola outbreak has been happening since February of this year, but it has just begun making headline news in the US within the last two weeks.  For essentially six months, we as Americans have been ignoring it, until it looked like it might affect us too.  Granted, there are other major events happening throughout the world right now, but it does make me stop and think when I see people posting on social media about how awful and outrageous this disease is, when they haven’t been interested in it for the past six months.

I grew up on Emory University’s campus.  My childhood home, where my parents still live, is 1.6 miles away from the hospital.  That is a 6 minute drive, a 30 minute walk.  I have a friend who recently began a job (in a non-medical field) at the university, I have friends who go to church on campus, I have friends who work at the Yerkes Institute on campus.  My high school was less than a block from campus, and we used to use Emory’s classrooms for AP and IB testing.   I went to music camp for three years at Emory.  I grew up down the street from Judson Ward, a former vice-president of Emory and their Dean of Alumni until his death in 2009.   I didn’t go to undergrad or graduate school at Emory, but it feels very much a part of my childhood, so this has hit closer to home than I thought it would, given that I now live over 700 miles away.

Let’s be clear – I firmly believe that these two health workers being transferred to Emory is a great thing.  They can get the care that they need in a modern medical facility that is specially equipped to deal with a deadly contagion.  The disease can be better studied now so that one day there will be a vaccine or a medication that can stop the spread in Africa.  But I also believe that in America, we enjoy a news culture based around fear-mongering.  We like the drama, we really do.  CNN ran a headline this week that was something to the effect of how quickly will Ebola spread in the US once the health workers are in Atlanta.  That headline is designed to do nothing but make people afraid.  And we were already afraid, weren’t we? Afraid of this disease that is supposed to affect third world citizens, not Americans.  Afraid of this disease that has no cure, that moves quickly and devastatingly.  Afraid of the movie Outbreak coming true.

A friend of mine posted something on Facebook, in response to another friend being concerned about Ebola being in Atlanta, which I will paraphrase.  My friend is several decades older than myself, and a healthcare worker, and this person remembered back to the 1980s and 1990s when the country was going through an AIDS scare and how she had been scared to treat patients who had AIDS because so much was still unknown.  She wondered, though, what would have happened if doctors and nurses had refused AIDS victims care, if no one had been willing to touch them or to draw blood from them, or to even study the disease.  Where would we be?

Where will we be if we don’t study Ebola, or offer treatment to these two US aid workers?  The reality is that they can get far better healthcare in the United States than they can in Africa.   The reality is that the care and medical attention being given  to those suffering in Africa right now, wouldn’t even pass for bad care from a modern healthcare facility.  As horrible as it is that hundreds of people are dying right now and can’t get access to the technology and facilities that can contain something as deadly as Ebola, by bringing these healthcare workers to Emory, we have a chance to change that.  We have a chance to see how the virus responds to modern medicine.  We have a chance to study it, to study the antibodies that the victims create in their efforts to fight off the virus.  We have a chance to learn.

One of the biggest reasons I’ve seen thrown around as to why these two healthcare workers shouldn’t be brought into the US is that they were careless enough to contract the virus in the first place.  Is that not truly ridiculous? Careless enough?  These people are hardly careless and it is, I imagine – having never been to Africa or having never been a medical professional – easy to make mistakes when working in an environment like those in Africa, or when working 20 hour days.  Ebola spreads through fluid, meaning that (as far as we know) Ebola is contracted by coming into contact with bodily fluid from another person who is already infected.  That infected bodily fluid – blood, lets say – would then have to make it’s way into the non-infected persons body, through an open sore – a cut, a pin-prick – or a mucus membrane  – the nose, eyes, mouth.  Containment suits are only so useful when you are tasked with caring for dozens of patients and you haven’t slept in days.  Mistakes are made.

I have moved from feeling shocked that Atlanta and Emory were chosen to play host to the Ebola victims, to feeling something that I think is close to pride.  I don’t know any doctors or nurses at Emory and I certainly don’t know anyone on the team tasked with treating the two infected healthcare workers, but I think they are all doing something amazing that could lead to even more amazing things, like a cure or a treatment.  Yes, I’m sure it is easier for me to feel this way being geographically far from Atlanta right now, but I just can’t believe that the US would knowingly endanger it’s citizens by bringing Ebola to the country if they didn’t feel that the doctors at Emory were equipped to treat it.

What I want to say to my friends in Atlanta is that worry and fear are natural in the face of the unknown, especially when it is as deadly as Ebola.  But something good will come of this.  It may not come this week, it may not come next month, or even this year.   We don’t know if the two victims being brought to Emory will survive and fight off the virus (Ebola is not always a death sentence; some do survive), but if we don’t take risks, we have no hope of figuring this disease out.  So yes, I am a mixture of nervous, proud, happy, and hopeful that my backyard, my beloved hometown of Atlanta has Ebola.

What I Liked In July

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Believe it or not, another month is gone.  I, once again, am in shock as to where the month went.  It feels like we were just gearing up for the 4th of July, and now it’s basically August.  I am of course looking forward to August (hello birthday month!), but first a look back on some of the things I liked in July.

Taste of Chicago: Every July, Chicago hosts a huge food festival in Grant Park that features restaurants from all over the city.  You walk around, you try delicious food, what’s not to like? Neither M nor myself had ever been, so we decided to give ourselves a tasting budget and check it out.  It was a gorgeous day, not too hot and not too crowded.  We ate pizza, ice cream, bourbon glazed chicken, nachos, grilled cheese – all that stuff that you really shouldn’t eat, but is too darn tasty not to.

Second Anniversary:  This month marked two years together for M & myself.  To celebrate, we treated ourselves to a comedy show at Second City, a great improv and sketch comedy theater.  The shows are always hilarious and Second City has given rise to some big time comedic stars (Tiny Fey, Steve Carell, Bill Murray, just to name a few).  It was a  great two hours out laughing together.  After the show, we intended to hit up our favorite tapas restaurant that is close by, but there was a two hour wait.  So we improvised and stumbled into this super casual burger joint called Butcher & The Burger.  So yummy and such a great find!

Easy Breezy: The weather this month has just been amazing.  As a born & raised Georgia girl, I am used to summer being synonymous with sticky, hot, and uncomfortable.  I guess that polar vortex from January really is coming in handy.  We’ve only reached temps over 85 degrees three times this summer, and only once in July.  We’ve had so many days with temps only in the 60s & 70s, sunshine, and cool breezes, perfect for long walks along the lake.

Frozen Yogurt Wednesdays: Wednesdays are something like Fridays for me.  I’m done with class for the week and I use Wednesdays to do what I want to do – read on the couch, catch up on missed TV, shop, or just go for a long walk.  I’ve mentioned it before, but having a frozen yogurt shop less than five minutes from my apartment is so. freaking. tempting.  I’ve been good about only treating myself once a week, on Wednesday nights.  My current fave? Mango yogurt with brownie pieces, cherry boba or fresh strawberries, and vanilla yogurt chips.  Yum!

Chai Tea Lattes (sans Oprah): I have really been loving chai tea lattes lately.  I typically associate chai tea with fall or winter, but I have totally jumped on board the iced chai wagon.  Starbucks calls their version the “Oprah Chai Tea Latte” (but I’m not sure what exactly Oprah has to do with it) and it’s great, but at over $4 for a medium size, it’s hardly wallet friendly.  This month at Trader Joe’s, I found their Spicy Chai Tea Latte mix.  It costs less than one Starbucks drink and makes 7 or 8 drinks.  Plus it’s nice to be able to whip one up in about two minutes at home.  It’s a win all around.

Switching Up Dinner: Keeping the food theme going, I’ve been trying out some new stuff in the kitchen lately.  I love cooking and I think that usually the simple dishes are the best.  This month I loved making sesame ginger grilled chicken, balsamic roasted edamame, and baked egg muffins stuffed with cheese & turkey.  All simple, all easy, all delicious.

Harry Potter Marathon: My summer reading that I planned has been sidetracked in favor of an old favorite.  Earlier this month, I decided on a whim to reorganize my bookshelves by color, and of course I stumbled on my collection of Harry Potter books.  Then, I gave in and started a trial of Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program (which, I’m still totally on the fence about).  Harry Potter is part of Kindle Unlimited, so I decided it was time for a reread.  I tore through the first two books in four days and am already on the third.  It’s been a few years since I’ve read the whole series, so I’m amazed by all the stuff I’d forgotten about in the books and loving all the memories that these books bring back up.

Those were just a few of the things I liked in July.  What did you like?

The Liebster Award – Take Two

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Some of you may remember that I was already nominated for  Liebster Award back in May.  But on Thursday, Rosemary over at ColorMePeach nominated me again! Thanks so much Rosemary!

I think the Liebster concept is really cool.  Basically it’s a blogging award made by bloggers, for bloggers.  It’s all about putting the spotlight on smaller blogs (blogs with less than 200 followers) and you are nominated by your fellow bloggers.  It’s a fun way to find new blogs and meet new people and I am all for it, so I figured why not – I’ll do another Liebster post.

The “rules” of accepting the award are:

  • Link to and thank the person you nominated
  • Post the Liebster Award button / image somewhere in the post
  • Answer 11 questions left by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 blogs (and notify them) and leave 11 questions for them to answer
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself

Pretty simple rules, and they are all basically aimed at letting your followers learn more about you.   So here are the 11 questions that Rosemary left for me:

1. Do you watch youtube makeup gurus, and who are your favorites?
I do! I only very recently began watching YouTubers (and Mr. Man totally makes fun of me for it).  My favorites are Coffee Break with Dani, essiebutton, & Young Wild and Polished.

2. If you had to live in an extreme climate would it be very hot or cold?
Oh gosh.  This is hard! I feel like I do live in an extreme cold climate during the winter here in Chicago, so yeah I’d have to say cold.  You can always put on more clothes, but there is a limit to what you can take off!

3. Who inspired you to blog?
I wouldn’t say any one person inspired me to blog.  As a writer, I think it was inevitable.  Before I started this blog my friends would always ask me if I had one, so I guess you could say collective peer pressure got me here.

4. Do you try and save money on makeup? If so, how?
Oh yes.  I never met a coupon I didn’t like.  Honestly, I try to stick to drugstore brands and look for the best drugstore products.  I splurge on a couple of prestige brands, but I hate doing it.  It just feels so wasteful to me still! I also don’t buy a ton of makeup products.  I seriously budget myself to $40 a month at Ulta and I only buy things that I need or don’t have.  Plus I love the Ulta coupons every month!

5. Do you have any pets?
Yes! I have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Ein (bonus points if you get the reference).  He’s going to be two on August 1st and I can’t believe it.

6. Under water snorkeling or skydiving?
I am terrified of water, so skydiving I guess, though I find the prospect of jumping out of a plane equally terrifying.  I’d have to do the kind of skydiving where you are strapped to another (more experienced) diver.  If I wasn’t, I’d totally chicken out.

7. What’s your favorite number?
I really like the number 244, for no particular reason.  I just think it looks and sounds nice. (Is that weird? That’s weird isn’t it?)

8. What are your plans in 5 years?
To be finished with my MFA and employed as a copyeditor in Chicago.

9. Favorite can’t-live-without makeup product?
That would be one of my splurge items – my Smashbox Always Sharp Waterproof Kohl Eyeliner in Sumatra.  I’m committed to a dark waterline.

10. What is a store you always stop at while shopping?
I don’t go shopping without a stop at Loft.  And Starbucks.

11. What’s your most unique piece of clothing?
Hmm. I actually have to think about this one a bit! I’m not sure I have any “unique” clothing.  It’s all pretty boring actually.  I do have  a pair of shiny patent leather pumps that are neon orange that I always get compliments on when I wear.  I also own reindeer leggings. Seriously.

Here are the 11 blogs that I am nominating for the award.  If you all have already been nominated, no sweat.  Don’t feel like you have to do the Liebster Award post again (unless you want to):

And here are my 11 questions for any of the bloggers I nominated who want to participate:

1.  What has been the best part of blogging for you?
2.  What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?
3.  What is your favorite meal (or the best meal you’ve ever had)?
4.  What is your current favorite song or band?
5.  Are there any events or activities coming up this summer that you’re looking forward to?
6.  What do you hope to gain through blogging?
7.  Best book you’ve read recently?
8.  If you had to pick one place to visit before you died, where would it be?
9.  What is one ordinary, everyday thing that always makes you happy?
10.  List one guilty pleasure (it can be anything!)
11.  What is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever bought for yourself or someone else?

And finally, 11 random, potentially silly facts about myself:

1. I organize my books by color
2. I could watch HGTV 24/7 and be totally happy
3. I hated tea until I moved to Chicago and discovered Argo Tea
4. Corgis are my jam
5. I got my first smartphone last year
6. I (secretly) wish that I could be a doctor
7. Taking long walks is one of the most relaxing things in the world to me
8. I once owned a Dawson’s Creek “tell-all” book that I bought at an elementary school book fair
9.  The first “grown up” makeup I bought was a Dior bronzer and it. was. awful.
10. I can’t make it through the day without at least one cup of coffee and one piece of chocolate
11. I love earrings, but I have a nickel allergy, so finding cute ones is a pain in the bum.

Do We Really Need a ‘Netflix for Books’?

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The e-book world is buzzing today since Amazon announced their new program, Kindle Unlimited.  For $10/month, you get access to unlimited Kindle e-books – over 600,000 books to be exact.  This isn’t really a new concept; services like Oyster and Scribd already offer the same service with the caveat that their e-books aren’t Kindle compatible.

When I first heard about this, I was totally on board.  Instant access to basically any book I want to read? Sign me up, take my money. But then I really stopped to think about it.  Do I need access to 600,000 books every month? No, probably not.  I have been speeding through books this summer, but that’s not always the case.  It typically takes me two weeks to finish a book.  It can take more or less depending on what else is going on in my life, what assignments or reading I have to do for classes, and if I leave myself time to read during the day, instead of, say, binge watching bad reality TV shows.  So on average, I’d say I could read two books per month.  A typical Amazon e-book costs around the $10 mark.  Some are more, some are less – it just depends.  So would this really be saving me money?  Depends on the month, but I’ll go out on a limb and say no.  Plus, I think Amazon’s advertising of this service is misleading.  The commercials hit you with popular titles – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Endless Love, Life of Pi.  But if you dig deeper, you’ll see that the big publishing companies are not participating with Amazon, meaning that those new releases you really want to get your hands on aren’t going to be available. Definitely something to ponder as Amazon’s increasingly bad relationship with publishing houses rears its head again.

What is really rubbing me the wrong way is this moniker that Kindle Unlimited has already earned – “The Netflix of Books.”  No.  Just no.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Netflix.  I use that service almost every single day, but let’s be honest.  Netflix is a luxury service.  I don’t need it (even if I might say otherwise).  I am fully aware that my ability to subscribe to Netflix is a luxury.  Books and access to books should never, ever, ever be a luxury.   Some of my fondest memories as a child were weekly trips to the public library that was just up the street from my house.  I would get to pick out 2 or 3 books at a time, knowing that even if I ran through all those, we could go back and get more.  The library is where I ripped through every book Lois Lowry and Beverly Cleary ever wrote, where I discovered that there truly are books for every taste.   It makes me so sad that I can’t get a library card in Chicago (as I am not considered a true resident of the city).

But wait? Don’t you read primarily on a Kindle yourself?

Yes.  It’s true.  I have made the transition to an e-reader.  But if e-readers were outlawed tomorrow and e-books disappeared? You can bet I’d be figuring out how to get a library card or making (even more) frequent trips to my local bookstore.  If Amazon’s venture into unlimited books can encourage more people to read and even encourage binge-reading (if we’re going to keep up the Netflix metaphor) then that is truly wonderful and I hope that does happen, but I hope even more that people remember that the do have unlimited access to books already.  Public libraries exist for a reason and continue to exist now, even when bookstores are crumbling.  You don’t need fancy e-readers and tablets, just a few hours to browse and lose yourself in a story.

What I’m Loving Right Now

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Sometimes, it is really about stopping to take in the little things.  I am trying to take more notice of the little things that are making me happy right now.  These things may not have any long term effects; they may be fleeting moments, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t special.

What is making me happy right now is my little work nook.  We have two couches in our apartment.  Technically, they fit together to make a big sectional, but our living room is too narrow to make it fit.  So we have one couch close to the TV that we sit on all the time, and one in the back of the room that rarely gets used.  I’ve taken to setting up on this couch to do work.  It feels cozy and secluded, the perfect spot for doing a little writing and doing a little research (today I’m learning all about the origins of secrets).   Setting up camp here with my notebook, a cold drink (I’ve been loving Trader Joe’s spicy chai tea latte mix), and a snack (frozen grapes) makes it feel less like work.  I’m also loving the effect that adding a few fresh blooms to the room is having.  I picked up the cheapest bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe’s last night and they just make the room seem more lively and fresh. They are an instant mood booster – how can you not feel content looking at the gorgeous colors?

What are you loving right now?

July 2014 Julep Maven Unboxing

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This is a very unexpected unboxing.  If you remember the fiasco with my May Maven box and the Plié Wand debacle, you’ll remember that I canceled my Julep subscription.  It is still canceled, I haven’t resubscribed.  Julep reached out to me and offered to send me a free July “It Girl” box, in hopes of luring me back in, so I figured I would go ahead and unbox it for you all.  To be clear – my issue with Julep was never their product.  I think they do have one of the best nail polish formulas on the market.  I just think their business practices could use a little help and that maybe it’s an issue of their Maven subscription service taking off a little faster than anticipated.  Maven boxes are a great value at only $20/month, since they include at least two polishes, but $20 is a bit pricey.

July’s collection is called the Poolside Collection.  This is the “It Girl” box, so it features three limited edition polishes.  Other boxes this month featured two polishes and a beauty product.  This month’s colors are:

Braiden, a graphite colored polish in Julep’s stardust finish.  This polish dries matte and textured.  You can feel all the glitter in it.  This is very pretty, but it’s a bit harsh for summer I think.

Linden, a pool blue creme polish.  This is surprisingly opaque and is a really beautiful, cerulean color.

Dawn, a citron creme polish.  Again, this is surprisingly opaque for a yellow polish.  It’s also giving off a neon vibe, which is really in this season.

Overall, I’m really happy with these colors.  They’re really different from other colors in my collection and ones that I know I will end up wearing.  Does this box make me want to resubscribe? Not really.  Honestly, even if Julep’s business practices hadn’t gone sour for me, I was thinking about canceling anyways.  I have so many polishes that I will never finish, so I certainly don’t need 36 new polishes over the course of one year.  I do think the service makes a nice treat every four or five months, but for me it’s not something I want on a monthly basis.

July 2014 Ipsy Unboxing

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Here we go again! My July Ipsy bag came this morning, and of course, being the patient person I am, I tore into it.  If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that this is only my fourth Ipsy bag.  I subscribed in April because I wanted to see what the hype was about.  It is often compared to my favorite subscription, Birchbox, because both services are at the very affordable $10/month price point.  Since this is my fourth month, I am really getting a feel for Ipsy and the type of company they are and the type of product they provide.  I will get into that at the end of the post though, because I know people just want to see the goods.

The theme of this month’s bag is “Sensationally Sunkissed,” and the bag itself is pretty plain.  It’s a hot pink, pleather bag with scalloped edges, and the interior lining is white felt.  It’s pretty cheap looking and feeling, but it would make a good bag to take to the pool or beach because I believe it is waterproof (to some extent).

The first product I got is a sample of bareMinerals 5 in 1 BB Advanced Performance Cream Eye Shadow in Divine Wine.  Gosh that is a mouthful.  I am excited about this because bareMinerals is a great brand.  It can be used as an eyeshadow or a primer and it is supposed to have 12 hour staying power.  The color I got is pretty dark, but it’s a beautiful mauve, purple brown color.  Not sure how wearable it is for me, but the formula is very silky and glides on smoothly.  It also seems to go on matte and dry with a bit of gold shimmer.

The next item in my bag is Elizabeth Mott Tints & Sass Fabulous Lip and Cheek Stain in Cherry.  And when they say cherry, they aren’t just talking about the color.  This smells likes cherries, which I love.  It’s a beautiful, deep red lip stain, but it’s not over powering.  It goes on pretty sheer, so you can build up the color.  I was hesitant about this because deep red is not my color, but I actually really like this.  It is a stain though and boy does it stain. Also, this is a full-size product that retails for $23, so I definitely got my money’s worth from this Ipsy bag.

My next item is POP Beauty Sunkissed Bronzer in Secret Sunshine.  I have a lip gloss from POP that is one of my all-time favorites, so I know I like this brand.  I avoid bronzers like the plague.  Side story: my first “grown-up” makeup product that I got when I was 17 was a Dior bronzer.  It was horrid.  I had no idea what I was doing, the shade was way too dark, and I walked around with an orange face and a pale body.  Since then, I just never learned how to use bronzer and honestly, I’ve never been interested.  I am very fair and have come to terms with that.  I have zero interest in tanning or being tan really.  That said, I actually do like this product, but I am using it as an eyeshadow. It’s a gorgeous neutral shade of brown and looks great swiped across the eyelids for a little something extra.  It’s also quite creamy.  This is also a full-size product and it retails for $10.

My last two items feel very repetitive and in fact, the next one I’m going to talk about is a repeat from my May bag.  It is the pur-lisse essential daily moisturizer with SPF 30.  I got this exact product in May, the only difference being this one has sunscreen and the May sample didn’t.  I was initially excited about this moisturizer, because I am always hunting for a good, lightweight daily moisturizer, but this one just left my skin oily and made me breakout.  I’ll try this one to see if it’s any different, but I’m not super excited about it.

The final item in this month’s bag is Faith Aromatherapy Anti-Oxidant Body Lotion in Citrus / Ginger.  I haven’t had this brand or product before, but it feels like a repeat because it smells identical to the Balanced Guru hair oil from the May bag.  The scent is really not great, so I’m not sure how much I’ll use this.  I will try it to see if the brand’s formula is good though, and see if it comes in some other scents.

So that is my July 2014 Sensationally Sunkissed Ipsy bag.  Overall it was a solid bag and a really good mixture of makeup and skincare items and I think it does reflect my beauty quiz results pretty well.  Being my fourth month as a subscriber, I do feel like I’ve got a handle on the type of company and service Ipsy is and I will say that my overall impression is not that positive.  For the most part, my bags have been fine, but I am really talking here about the business end of the company.  Last month, there was some controversy over an item that came in some bags.  I did not get the item in question, but I know people who did and I watched the saga play out on social media.  Some June bags included Be a Bombshell mascaras that were legitimately rancid and were dangerous to use and Ipsy stayed completely silent about it.  It was a widespread issue and even though I wasn’t personally affected, it really made me think about wanting to do business with a company that doesn’t seem to care about it’s subscribers when bad, dangerous products are being sent out.  It also makes me question the safety of the products I’m being sent each month. I am going to continue to get Ipsy for the next two months, because I think six months is a fair trial period, but I’m unsure if I will be continuing to support this company.

I hate ending on such a down note, so here is something a bit happier.  Now through August 10th at Ulta, you can get free shipping on any order if you buy a bareMinerals product by using the code IPSYBAREFS, which is a great deal.   I’d love to hear in the comments what you guys got in your Ipsy this month or just general thoughts about the company.