May 2015 Birchbox Unboxing

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It is that time of the month again – Birchbox time! I am pretty impressed by how quickly Birchbox has been shipping out their boxes lately. I seriously can’t believe it’s May – it seems like it was just yesterday that I was moving into my new apartment, and dealing with two feet of snow,  but that was over three months ago now! Crazy. Also, as you may have noticed, I kind of dropped the ball when it came to my “100 Happy Days” challenge. It has been a busy, busy time as I work on my thesis, but what better way to restart the challenge and pick up where I left off than a beautiful Birchbox? Before we dig into May’s box, let’s look back at how April’s samples actually turned out.

Now, if you remember from my April unboxing, you’ll know I had some problems with my April box.  Now, ultimately my issue was resolved.  I was sent what I consider to be a duplicate sample (same product and formula, but different fragrance), and after talking to reps from Birchbox, I was told they consider this a completely new and different sample.  They ultimately sent me two free samples (both of which I had also previously sampled), but it was a nice gesture on their part.  Others had the same thing happen to them, and received no compensation, which frankly isn’t right.  Birchbox should treat all it’s loyal subscribers equally.  It certainly made me stop and think about the type of company Birchbox promotes itself to be, versus the kind of company it actually is.  Anyways,  of last month’s samples, I honestly don’t have a favorite.  I used up both the Beaver Shampoo & Conditioner samples completely. I didn’t find them to be life altering products, but they were good quality and smelled nice (Mr. Man tried them and liked them too).  I haven’t tried the WEI Manuka Bee Venom Mask, and I’m not sure I will.  I rarely use face masks, and there is just something about the bee venom that is freaking me out.  The Jouer Tintis nice, a good color, but again just not a product I ever use, and of course, I got rid of the Whish Shave Cream as I had already sampled it and knew that I was allergic to it.

To say I was disappointed with April would be an understatement.  It was the worst box I have gotten from Birchbox in almost two years of subscribing, so I suppose that is actually a good thing that it took so long to get a real dud, but it came on the back of less than stellar boxes in February and March.  The box itself is, however, the most beautiful box Birchbox has ever printed.

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May’s box is also so beautiful.  I love the soft, peachy diagonal checkerboard, and the rosy gold foil on the logo. I feel like the design is perfect for the May theme, which is ‘Elevate Everyday.’ It’s about taking the basics of your daily routine and punching them up a bit. This month, Birchbox teamed up with the blog Cupcakes + Cashmere and features samples curated by blog runner Emily Schuman.  All the promotional material and sneak peeks for May’s box have been so cute and really springy – lots of pastels and soft colors, and lots of sweet treats.

The first sample in my box is Aruba Aloe Luxe Foot Creme.  This is a pure aloe and shea butter foot creme that is supposed to hydrate and nourish dry, cracked feet. At first I was a little meh about this, but we are heading towards summer, which means flip flops and sandals, and also means really dry heels. I will likely get more use out of this than I first thought. It’s a really generous sample size, and the creme itself is very soft and moisturizing, but not sticky. It also has a very light, pleasant mint fragrance.

My next sample is the Coastal Scents Revealed 3 Eyeshadow Quad in Desert Bloom. This is a little four-pan sample from their new Revealed 3 palette, which is their third eyeshadow palette, all of which are lower cost alternatives to the Urban Decay Naked palettes. I received a sample of Coastal Scents eyeshadows in one of my very first Birchboxes nearly two years ago, and they are good quality.  They do not have the staying power of an Urban Decay or MAC shadow, but they are good and pigmented.
IMG_1739_FotorThe four colors in this quad are really pretty, and very wearable I think.  Right to left in the above picture, there is a matte brown, a sparkly metallic gold, a matte red that has purple undertones, and a lavender / mauve color with gold sparkles. These are all good colors for me, so I’ll definitely be adding this to my eyeshadow routine.

My next sample is Dr. Jart+ BB Night Beauty Balm. This is a tinted BB cream that is safe to wear while you sleep that is supposed to hydrate and brighten skin. I’ve tried a BB cream from Dr. Jart+ before and I hated it.  It was watery and way to dark. This product comes out of the tube as a clear gel with little silvery flecks, but when you rub it in to your skin, it changes color. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a product that changes to match your skin tone, but it definitely does mine no favors. It turned a very dark, almost red bronze color when I rubbed it in. It is also a bit sticky on the skin. I’m not entirely sure why you need tinted BB cream to sleep in, so I’m not sure how much I will use this.

The next sample is LA FRESH Eco-Beauty Waterproof Makeup Remover. These are two individually wrapped makeup remover wipes that are supposed to work well on stubborn, waterproof makeup. It says ‘for eyes and lips’ on the packaging, and says it removes makeup while nourishing the skin. I don’t wear waterproof makeup anymore, but I will definitely get some use out of these. Since they’re individually wrapped, they’d be great for throwing in my purse.

My final sample this month is Number 4 Thermal Styling Spray. I’ve sampled Number 4 shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in conditioner before, and it is definitely a good brand, but I’ve never found the products life changing, or worthy of their high price tag. This product is supposed to be sprayed on before using heat styling tools, and promises to protect your hair from heat and enhance hold. I never use heat on my hair. Ever. I don’t even blow dry it, so this is a bit of a miss for me. It also smells very chemical-y, so not sure I will get a ton of use out of this, but I’ll probably spritz it in my hair and just see what happens.

So that is my May 2014 Birchbox! I think it is going to be a really good box, actually. These are all products that I can see being ‘everyday’ items, like lotion and makeup remover, and I know I will at least try everything in the box. 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 May!

Day 15: An Office with a View

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With the weather warming up, I’ve been loving taking the L downtown and working at Northwestern’s Chicago campus.  There is a nice little courtyard with tables and benches that is perfect for getting some thesis editing done.  It is right across the street from the Museum of Modern Art, a cute little park, and the Hancock building.  Does the view get any better than this?

Day 14: Bubble Toes

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Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is allow yourself an hour or two of complete relaxation time.  I love taking bubble baths because it is a time with no screens, no distractions, just fluffy bubbles and warm water.  I’ve been using the “Dorothy” bubble bar from LUSH lately, and I adore it.  It’s fresh and relaxing, and the perfect way to pamper myself a little bit when I need some “me” time.

Day 13: The Book of Embraces

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Today I was so saddened to learn of the death of writer Eduardo Galeano, but when I saw the news of his passing, I was inspired to pick up his book The Book of Embraces and give it another read.  I was first introduced to this book by a professor in my very first master’s workshop.  It is one of the most unique, beautiful, and affecting books I have ever read.  It is just lovely, and is a book that invites the reader to think and ponder and reflect.  I absolutely recommend it, if you are open to non-traditional styles.  I am sad that Eduardo Galeano is no longer with us, but happy to have been reminded of how fantastic his words are.

Day 12: First Signs of Spring

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Spring has officially come to the Second City.  How gorgeous are these blooms? It’s so nice to see all the flowers with buds, and leaves beginning to sprout.  Going outside, the air just smells so fresh, and the temperatures have been divine.  The last few days, I’ve even woken up to birds chirping outside my window.  It makes me so happy to see Chicago out of winter and so see all the pretty colors beginning to pop up.

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy

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I am about 3 years late to the party on this one, but what can I say? This week, I finally got around to reading J.K. Rowling’s first novel after the Harry Potter series, The Casual Vacancy.  It was published in 2012, and I remember receiving it for Christmas that year, sticking it on my shelf with the intentions of reading it within the month, and well, here we are in 2015.  I honestly couldn’t remember what the book was supposed to be about when I plucked it off my shelves last week, so I dove in completely blind, which sometimes is the best way to approach a book.

The Casual Vacancy centers around the small town of Pagford, which seems very idyllic at first glance.  Underneath the thin veneer of cobblestone streets and cozy shops is a feud that is splitting the town apart (almost literally).  Politicians are feuding, families are feuding – it’s not a particularly happy time for anyone who lives in this town.  Now that I think about it, I can’t recall one truly happy character.  They all have small moments of joy, but overall, it’s a pretty depressing lot.

The novel opens with a death that sends ripples through Pagford, where everyone really does know everyone else.  Honestly, after the opening salvo, not a lot happens in the first half of the book.  There are daily lives being led, a few smaller plot points, but nothing major really.  That’s not an entirely bad thing.  The character development in this novel is insanely brilliant.  All the characters felt like real, tangible people, and all the characters (though glum) were readily distinguishable and unique.  There are so many characters to keep track of in this novel, but it never feels unmanageable.  The second half of the novel really ramps up the action; lots of things happen in the final 70 pages that impact the major families of the novel in heartbreaking and devastating ways.  I was absolutely stunned by the ending.  Rowling gave no hint as to what was going to befall one of the harder-to-like families.  My only complaint is that so much happens at the end and we don’t get to spend nearly enough time with the characters in that aftermath.  Perhaps a sequel is in order? Yes, please.

You know, I have to say, it’s funny the way people reacted to this novel.  I went on Goodreads and read some reviews after I’d finished.  I loved the book.  Seriously could not put it down during those rare moments when I got to read for fun.  I had to laugh at how many people had given the book one star because it was not similar to Harry Potter.  It certainly isn’t.  This is an adult novel, with lots of sex, drugs, and some violence, and I’ll admit, I did have a moment in the beginning of the book where I went, wait…JK Rowling writes about wizards and magic duels. she can’t be writing about teenagers having sex and heroin addicts… but she does it so well, in a way that is endlessly effortless to read.  If you are someone who is drawn to books that focus a great deal on developing characters, I’d highly recommend this book.  It’s a bit of a long one (my cloth copy is 503 pages), but so worth it.

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As an aside, I’m thinking of making Sunday book “reviews” a thing.  I feel a little silly calling them reviews, though that is what they are, when basically I just love telling you all about what I’ve been enjoying.  I’ve noticed that I usually tend to start books on Sunday and finish them on Friday or Saturday, just depending on how my week has gone, work wise.  I might not always have a book finished, but I think it could be fun (and motivating) to share my weekly reads!

Day 11: Lazy Saturday

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Don’t you just love weekend days where you are completely lazy? I suppose I don’t truly mean lazy; I mean days when you aren’t accountable to any schedule and can be leisurely.  Today was one of those days.  I slept in, whipped up a big breakfast of bacon, pancakes, and coffee, and spent the afternoon finishing my book, drinking coffee, and watching the Braves game in the background.  Perfectly lovely.