Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cupcakes and Cashmere + Birchbox May 2015 Review

I am not going to lie. I was extremely disappointed with my Birchbox this month. As you know from my other reviews, I'm getting a bit sick and tired of receiving a ton of body and hand creams (especially fairly mediocre ones). Lo and behold in this month's box I received not ONE, but TWO of them! I also received several items that were extremely similar to other samples I've received in the past. 

So, this box combined with the slight disappointment of last month's have made me rethink renewing my annual subscription again - which ends next month I believe. Yes, the argument is that Birchbox is just $10 and that's not very much. However, if you're disappointed with even just five of your boxes in one year, that's $50 you could have spent on full-size products that you love...All that aside, here's my honest take on each of the products.

My box contained: Beauty Protector Beauty Cream Body Lotion (full-size, $15.95), Juliette Has a Gun Not a Perfume (full-size, $90-120), Macadamia Professional Nourishing Moisture Oil Treatment (full-size, $40), Naobay Oxygenating Cream Moisturizer (full-size, $36), and Well People The Expressionist Bio Extreme Mascara (full-size, $23.50)

This month's box was in collaboration with Emily Schuman of Cupcakes & Cashmere. I'm not quite sure what the collaboration entailed other than Birchbox putting her logo on the box. This wasn't a curated box so the items weren't individually picked by Emily. They are promoting her new book Cupcakes and Cashmere at Home through the Birchbox Book Club and offering up a copy for free with any purchase of $55+ in the Birchbox Shop. That's a pretty good deal if you don't have another coupon code you're planning to use, because the book is worth $19.95 retail! There was also a promo card in the box for Domino Magazine. It had a code for 15% off any purchase on their website, an offer for an annual subscription for just $12, and a recipe for Linguini Al'Arrabiata. I haven't read Domino Magazine before but it looks like they did a recent feature on Emily Schuman which is likely why the promo card was included.

Beauty Protector Beauty Cream Body Lotion

I have received at least four Beauty Protector products in previous Birchboxes. While the brand is pretty nice, I wasn't overwhelmed and I've never really considered purchasing a full-size product. This product is suitable for use on hands and body. It has a powdery vanilla scent, nothing particularly distinctive. It smells almost identical to the Minus 417 Hand Moisturizer in Ocean that I received in a Sample Society box in October 2013. It's sort of like a sugary sweet cakey scent. Like the Minus 417 one, this one has a nice thick texture that does feel like it deeply moisturizes, as opposed to many of the other lotions I've received from Birchbox that were much more thin / runny. To its credit, I will say that this lotion pleasantly surprised me - the brand and scent didn't do much for me, but I did like the rich texture.

Juliette Has a Gun Not a Perfume

I have definitely received this before in a previous Birchbox. I don't think it was through my subscription though, perhaps at a Birchbox event or in a blogger gift bag sponsored by Birchbox. This perfume comes from Paris and is allergen-free. It is made from a single element called Cetalox. I'm guessing it is called "Not a Perfume" because it is single element and that element is something usually only used in base notes of other perfumes. It has a soft spicy scent that reminds me of powdery, lighter, more feminine version of Kiel's unisex Original Musk eau de toilette.  I like how the sample was packaged with care in a sealed envelope with a note. It is definitely a pleasant sample that I will certainly use, especially in Fall & Winter, but I don't think I love it enough to purchase a full-size bottle.

Macadamia Professional Nourishing Moisture Oil Treatment

This was my sample choice so I can't really complain. It's definitely the best thing in the box, in my opinion. The sample choices this month weren't overly exciting, so I thought this one was my best bet. I trust the brand and I have dry color-treated hair, so am always looking for good products to add some moisture. This product is loaded with antioxidants. It is lightweight and doesn't make you hair look greasy. I put just a couple drops into my palm and applied it on my hair from mid length to ends while is was damp. Be careful not to put it higher than mid length - I can imagine it might make roots look greasy! It has a pleasant but not very overpowering smell. I found that it pretty instantly added softness and shine to dull hair. I like that the sample came in a glass bottle and contains a full 1 oz of product. That's nearly 1/4 of a full-size bottle, worth about $10! It should last me a long while.

Naobay Oxygenating Cream Moisturizer

This was a huge disappointment. I had seen lots of other subscribers get this item before I did and have read a number of less-than-stellar reviews, so I was dreading the day this would be one of my 5 samples. The products is made in Spain and contains avocado and olive oils. It is 98% natural. This one is the typical thin, runny kind of lotion I've gotten in multiple Birchboxes. It does not feel particularly deeply hydrating like the Beauty Protector one did. You can use this one on face and neck though, which you cannot with most of the rest. It's got a strong lemon citrus scent that reminds me a bit of my kitchen soap. I read some reviews that it made subscribers with oily skin feel like it made their face even more oily and greasy. Well, I have very dry skin and it did the exact same thing! Overall, you can tell I was not a big fan of this one. I can't believe a full-size is $36! That's more than twice the price of the Beauty Protector lotion and nearly as much as a luxury body lotion brand like Molton Brown ($42), which I'd much rather purchase instead. Plus, with Beauty Protector you're getting a 7 oz tube and with Molton Brown you're getting a 10 oz bottle - with this you're only getting 1.7 oz. Can you believe it?!?

Well People The Expressionist Bio Extreme Mascara

I received another Well People mascara in a previous box (February 2014) and was fairly unimpressed. This was another huge disappointment. I'm all for all-natural, but I don't think they make the most effective make-up  products. They don't tend to last as long or create dramatic results. If you mainly go for the ultra all-natural look and want to wear some make-up rather than none, I would go for Well People products...but, you're probably lovely au natural anyway and this doesn't make a huge difference. All I found with this mascara was that it darkened my lashes a little, which did indeed "make them look longer". I wouldn't quite call this an "Extreme" mascara by any means. If you have very light lashes and just want to make them more noticeable but like the no make-up look, then this is the right mascara for you.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

L'Occitane L'OcciBox Spring 2015 Review

You may remember my previous review of the L'OcciBox, L'Occitane's take on a beauty subscription box, back in December 2014. To my knowledge, there haven't been any others in-between and this one is L'Occitane's 2nd ever. So, although they have not posted anything specifically about the L'OcciBox, I'm assuming it will continue to come out on a quarterly basis. It is not a "subscription" box per say. You just buy each box as it comes out individually, as if it were any other item on the L'Occitane website. However, they are released in quite limited quantities and only for a short time.

As with the first box, I was able to find a discount code on another blogger's site for this one too. This one was a little bit more expensive than the last, though - $20 + shipping & tax rather than $15 + shipping & tax.

Shea Butter Whipped Hand Cream (full-size, 1oz, $12
Shea Butter Hand Cream (full-size, 1oz, $12)

The Whipped Hand Cream I received was a full size product! The Shea Butter Hand Cream was 10ml / .3oz so worth about $4. Admittedly, I already have quite a few of the L'occitane hand creams - not that I don't absolutely love them! However, I may have too many at this point. So, I'll hang on to my favorites and probably gift a few sometime soon.

Immortelle Precious Serum (full-size, 1 oz, $70&
Immortelle Brightening Essence (full-size, 1 oz, $70)

The Precious Serum I received was .23oz and the Brightening Essence was .03oz. So, the Precious Serum sample is worth about $17.50 and the Brightening Essence about $4.30. I'm pretty excited about trying out some items from the Immortelle collection. They are some of L'Occitane's premium products and, to be honest, I probably wouldn't splurge on a $70 item. So, it will be nice to experience these little luxuries on my budget. I think it will take a few uses before I can determine the anti-aging effects from these products. But, so far I'm pleased!

Bonne Mere Soap in Rose (full-size, 3.5oz, $7)

This is the full sized product! I can always use a lovely fragrant soap. I absolutely love anything rose scented and really enjoyed the similar soaps by Durance that I received in my French Box last October. This one is also from Marseille!

Jasmin & Bergamote Eau de Toilette (full-size, 2.5oz, $78)

This sample is worth about $1.25. I was really excited about this item. Although the sample is small, I've never tried any of the perfumes from L'Occitane before - and I love both Jasmine and Bergamot scented items. I was a bit surprised though, because this scent seemed like a more generic floral that's not particularly spicy or powdery. It's a bit sharp with some sort of alcohol undertones that just aren't particularly my taste.  I don't like it when perfumes smell too much like chemicals or their base ingredients / rubbing alcohol. I expect the notes on the labels to always be the overpowering scents.

Sugarfina Champage Bears Cube (full-size, 3.8oz, $8)

This is another full sized product! I have to admit when I decided that I wanted this box, the Sugarfina cube was a bit of a selling point. I'd always wanted to try a few particular sweets from Sugarfina, but thought they were a bit overpriced to be honest (especially when you had to add on the hefty mandatory shipping fees!). The Champagne Bears were one of those I had wanted to try. I also thought it was pretty neat to see L'Occitane incorporating a complementary lifestyle product that wasn't their own brand. What gal doesn't love beauty products and sweet treats?

The total value of this box was about $54.05! In my opinion, it was a pretty incredible value, even though it was $20 + shipping + tax, which certainly isn't cheap for a sample box. I got 3 full-size products I will definitely use, got to try a fragrance that had piqued my interest, and can now try some of the premium skincare products that are a bit above my budget at the moment. This box may be a bit of a splurge for me compared to Birchbox's $10 boxes (and the ridiculous number of beauty products I already have), but since it's only quarterly and such high quality, I think it's definitely worth it.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Lilly for Target is Giraffing Me Crazy!

Here's post number two on my Lilly for Target treasures! As you heard yesterday, I was only able to get a hold of two shifts in my size, the Fan Dance one and the Giraffeey one. I snagged this beauty off the racks at the Downtown LA Target store less than a week after the initial release of the collection. Since they had one each in about 8 sizes as well as multiples of a few other items, I'm guessing they had a late shipment delivered to their store. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found this beautiful dress. The pictures really don't do it justice. From everything I've read, this sounds like the best shift - even item - in the entire collection.

Dress & Sandals: Lilly Pulitzer for Target
Sunglasses: Zero UV | Clutch: Gigi New York | Earrings: House of Harlow 1960

Here's my full review of the Lilly for Target Giraffeeey Shift Dress: This shift fits incredibly well and is so comfortable.  It is just the right amount of snug in the bust and waist to give a fitted look with a flattering profile. It flares out nicely at the bottom, so it doesn't pull at all at the hips or thighs. The linen material is super soft and durable and the delicate lace at the neckline and on the back adds a really elegant touch. The only thing to note on the material, as is true with all linen clothing items, is that it wrinkles very easily. You can also see some of the stitching at the hem all around the bottom of the dress, which you can't see on the Fan Dance one. That does make it look a tiny bit more cheaply made, but honestly the stitch marks are so small that no one would ever notice.

As you can see in the photos, mine wrinkled considerably after sitting down for Mother's Day brunch for a couple hours.  So, you will need to regularly iron this one! This has the same beautiful pineapple zipper pull detail as the other dresses and also has a light white cotton line attached on the inside. As compared to the Fan Dance shift in the same size, I will say this one is significantly shorter.

I chose to pair this one with the beautiful Lilly for Target Pineapple Sandals I was extremely fortunate to stumble upon in the Princeton NJ Target store returns yesterday. Because the dress is made of linen, it is really easy to dress it up with heels for the evening or dress it down with sandals for the daytime. A pop of gold seemed like the perfect complement for brunch today.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Get Your Fan Dance On with Lilly for Target!

Were you caught up in the Lilly for Target craze? Yep, of course I was too! As you likely know, I'm beyond Lilly obsessed and then - Lilly at bargain prices? You know this girl was there. Unfortunately I was not overly successful during the 3-4am online frenzy that kicked off the sale. I was able to order about 8 items: 2 towels, 2 shorts, 1 scarf, 1 zip top clutch, 1 romper, and 1 halter top. They ended up being in varying sizes but most fit at least somewhat - I gifted 1 of the pairs of shorts. However, I've been pretty relentless in my search through returns at multiple stores and swaps with other Lilly lovers online.

I'm including a few of my best finds in this post (don't worry, more to come!). I hadn't found too many pasts reviewing how the products fit, quality, etc. If you're looking to swap with someone else or pay a little - or a lot - above retail on eBay, it's definitely important to know these details. 

Dress, Scarf, iPhone Case, & Patio Umbrella: Lilly Pulitzer for Target
Sunglasses: Karen Walker | Shoes: Kate Spade | Purse: Tory Burch

Here's my review of the Lilly for Target Fan Dance Shift Dress: So far, the only shifts I've been able to get a hold of are the Giraffeeey, Fan Dance, and See Ya Later ones. I found the Giraffeeey one in a Target store while visiting LA, purchased the Fan Dance one on eBay, and purchased the See Ya Later one from a friend. Unfortunately the See Ya Later one isn't in my size, but I'm hoping I can swap it with someone! 

The ones that fit are all 1 size up from what I would wear in "real" Lilly. Comparing those three styles, I found that the Fan Dance and See Ya Later (along with the My Fans and Happy Place ones) are made out of the same material - a fairly thick pique cotton with a thin white cotton liner attached. Although the patterns are super cute and I certainly wouldn't dissuade anyone from buying these, I can tell you straight away that the Giraffeeey shift, which is made of a thin linen material, is much more flattering on women with a larger bust and wide hips. The linen one will hit you in all the right places. The others will fit nicely in the bust but will likely be quite loose around the waist and then pull/wrinkle a little bit at the hips.  Basically, they will make your hips look a little wider and your waist look a little larger than the linen style. I have also heard that the See Ya Later and My Fans shifts have a v-neck that is also quite low - something for ladies with a larger bust to be aware of when considering fit.

Overall though, I love the vibrant colors, the lace detail, and the adorable pineapple zipper pull of this Fan Dance shift. The fabric does feel like really good quality that will last a long time. It pairs really nicely with the delicate Fan Dance scarf I was able to get during the online sale. I'll definitely enjoying wearing it to the many summer BBQs I plan to host under my lovely Lilly for Target umbrella!

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mothers are a Girl's Best Friend!

By this point, most of us have learned that sometimes mother really does know best. So why not treat her very well on her special day? Mother's Day is next Sunday, May 10th. Here are my picks this year that will meet any budget - whether you're still on an allowance, enjoying your tax refund, or just received your annual bonus!

"Call Your Mother" Cushion $87 | Scenario Home

Sending x's and o's to your mommy dearest!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rifle Paper Co + Birchbox April 2015 Review

I'm posting my monthly Birchbox review a little late for two reasons, one good and one not so good. On the bright side, I decided to splurge on a Birchbox Plus for the very first time, which arrived separately but just shortly after my Birchbox. On the not-so-bright side, my sample choice this month did not arrive in my box, despite receiving a confirmation on my selection. So, I had to wait a few weeks for the Birchbox customer service team to kindly send it separately. This is the second time I haven't received an item that was supposed to be in my box. 

However, it's really never a big deal. Birchbox's customer service team is the absolute best. In both cases they immediately acknowledged the error and shipped the product separately. They also let me keep all the original products. So, I basically got an extra item in my Birchbox each time they made this mistake. That's fine with me and certainly makes up for the extra wait time.

My box contained: Supergoop Advanced SPF 37 Anti-Aging Eye Cream (Full-size, $45), Cynthia Rowley Beauty Brightening Illuminator (Full-size, $28), Temple Spa Peace Be Still Calming Face & Body Balm (Full-size, $29), Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream in Blueberry (Full-size, $20), Beauty Protector Protect & Oil (Full-size, $25.95), and my replacement sample choice item - Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain (Full-size, $25)

I love Supergoop products, and you may remember I received the CC Cream in a previous box. I have really fair skin so anything with a high SPF is a huge plus for me, especially in the spring and summer. Although this sample is teeny tiny (2ml), it does hold up for a few uses since you only need a drop of product each time. This cream attacks all of my worst skincare nightmares - dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, and sun damage. I love how energized my whole face looks after I use the product. I also like the really neutral powdery scent. At $45 I don't think I can splurge on this just yet, so I am excited to have the opportunity to enjoy a sample of this little luxury.

I was really intrigued by this new Cynthia Rowley beauty product and almost selected it as my sample choice. So, I was pretty excited to see it in my box even though I did not initially received my confirmed sample choice. This is another tiny sample (.04 oz) but also only requires a small amount per use. It's a sort of brightening contour product. You can use it to add dimension to our forehead, lift your brow, energize your eyes, make your cheekbones pop, align your nose, plump your lips, and accentuate your natural face shape. I found that it shimmers a bit like a mix between Benefit's Watt's Up and High Beam. It looked best around my eyes and eyebrows and helped "wake-up" my face in general.

Temple Spa is another brand in the Gilchrist & Soames family. As you may remember, I have already received heaps of Gilchrist & Soames or "distributed by Gilchrist & Soames" body lotions under their various labels this year (Gilchrist & Soames - March 2014Spa Therapy - May 2014, Bee Kind - October 2014). It seems to be Birchbox's favorite brand. I've also received the same samples for free at hotels throughout the year. So, I wasn't overly excited about this one. I've also put in my Birchbox profile that I don't want body lotions anymore, and yet another appears! To be fair, this one has a nice aromatherapy element to it. The scent is indeed pretty calming. It reminds me of lemon, chamomile, and lavender. However, it doesn't seem so out of the ordinary to me that it would merit a $29 price tag. As a point of comparison the consistency/texture is pretty much identical to the other Gilchrist & Soames products I've received.

So, I've actually received Whish Shave Cream in a Birchbox before (May 2014). Although Birchbox cannot repeat samples in your box, it can give you the same sample in a different scent. To some people, this would seem like a major cop-out on Birchbox's part. However, to me in this case, I was pretty excited to receive a dupe. I absolutely love Whish Shave Cream. It's so smooth and luxurious. These samples are also perfect for travel, when you don't want to bring an aerosol shaving cream can with you. I'm pretty much a budget shaving cream girl, so again couldn't justify the $20 price tag - but that just makes receiving the second sample sweeter! Admittedly, I love grapefruit so the other scent was definitely my favorite. However, the blueberry scent wasn't quite as I expected it would be - it's actually pretty sweet with hint of sour grape.

I have received a few Beauty Protector products in previous Birchboxes including the detangling spray, shampoo, and conditioner. They were all pretty great, but I  have hair that is very dry and prone to tangles, so I like heavy-duty products. This product does the trick. Just 1-3 drops will do to protect your hair against UV rays, heat, and breakage. I love the high quality of this sample. It's a pretty decent size and comes in a durable leak-free glass bottle. It has a lovely vanilla bean smell. It will definitely last me a while. I applied it to my hair when it was still damp and noticed that it became much easier to manage and style when it started to dry.

I was so pleased to receive my Jane Iredale lip and cheek stain, albeit a little late. I've been a huge fan of the brand ever since I received a Starter Kit to review courtesy of Vogue Magazine last May. The products create such a natural look and feel really great on sensitive skin. This sample is also extremely small so I plan to use it sparingly. I prefer it as a lip stain rather than a cheek stain because it is so deeply conditioning and moisturizing. I have very dry lips and prefer more of a subtle matte look on my cheeks most of the time. Despite the product's translucent coral appearance, it actually creates a striking magenta lip color. I love how great it makes my lips look and feel.

(Birchbox Plus Price $28, Regular Price $35)

Last but not least, my Birchbox Plus! I have never splurged on one before, but when I heard this month's partner was the ever-adorable Rifle Paper Co, I just couldn't resist. This bag is so distinct and very high quality. I love that it is double-lined, making it extremely durable and well suited for carrying heavy books or transporting groceries (come on, it was just Earth Day, get with the program!!). It's absolutely lovely and although I really didn't need another tote, I think this one will become not only a collector's item but also an everyday favorite.

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Rent the Runway NYC Sample Sale Starts Tomorrow!

A little extra gift from the Easter Bunny...

The Rent the Runway Sample Sale!

Buy (previously rented) designer dresses and accessories for up to 90% OFF retail prices. A few featured brands will be: Elizabeth and James, Shoshanna, Issa, Badgley Mischka, and Robert Rodriguez.

Monday, April 6th | 11am-8pm
Tuesday, April 7th-Thursday, April 9th | 10am-8pm
Friday, April 10th-Saturday, April 11th | 10am-7pm
Sunday, April 12th | 10am-3pm

260 Fifth Avenue
Between 28th & 29th Streets
New York, NY 

Know Before You Go:
My review of the 2013 sample sale HERE.
My review of the 2012 sample sale HERE.

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