Monday, October 20, 2014

The French Box ~ October 2014 Box Review

A couple weeks ago I went on a trip to Paris for the first time since I was a little girl. So, although I did some fun things back then like go to The Louvre, climb the Eiffel Tower, and marvel at the sight of Versailles - I definitely still considered myself a total "City of Lights" novice some 13+ years later. Since my recent visit to the Caudalie boutique for a Birchbox event, I have to say that one of the things I was most excited about was exploring new French beauty brands. I also love French food so I was looking forward to that too - but who wouldn't? 

Given all this, I was thrilled to see a post online about a brand new subscription box called "The French Box" which sends you 6 unique home, beauty, fashion, or gourmet products from France each month. The box costs $24/month, but you can receive your first box for a special discounted price of $14 (like I did!) by using the code "firstbox" at checkout.

First, I have to show you this box's impeccable packaging. I just love the little Eiffel Tower with a  bow motif and the boxes are all very sturdy and high quality (just like Glossybox).  They're so nice that they'd be perfect for gifting, storage, or repurposing. In fact, I was thinking that ordering a one-off box would make a lovely hostess present sometime.

Each month seems to have a theme that incorporates a cute art print card and recipe sheet. This month's is "The Warmth of Provence" - how cozy for the oncoming fall season!

Matis Powder Brush (Full size: $15.50)
The first item in my box was the Matis kabuki brush. It is a full size product and it retails for $15.50. It is perfect for mineral makeup, loose powder, or blush. It's made of super soft goat hair and is far superior to any other brushes of its type I've found at that price point. A nice kabuki brush can easily put you out $30+ (even my decent Sonia Kashuk one from Target cost $12.99). It's hard to describe just how luxuriously soft to the touch this brush is - just lovely!

Couleur Calisson (Retail Price: $3.00)
I love that this box isn't just about beauty products. While I absolutely love them, I'm sure I have enough of them by now (if I have to be completely honest with myself!). So, I was excited to see a nice little sweet treat. I adore French macarons but they are so extremely sweet that I'm not overly tempted to have them all that frequently. I was exited to learn about this other delicacy - native to the South of France. It's got more of a Madeleine-like cake consistency. A box of 16 Calissons is nearly 16 euros on the Couleur Calisson website, so the $3 retail price estimate seems a little low to me actually. Judging by the flavors described on the site and the ingredients on the package, I think my 4-pack includes Chestnut, Prune, Lemon, and Raspberry. They're good until April 2015, in case you're "on a diet" right my house, these won't last long.

Durance Marseille Soap (Full-size, 3.5 oz: $7.90)
I was really excited to see something from Durance in my box. Although I did have some time on my trip to shop, I was mostly in Paris for work. So, although I saw quite a few Durance stores around, I never had the chance to go into one. This was like sending to my doorstep the luxe souvenir I never got to buy - just fabulous! I like that Durance is a well known brand in France that hasn't quite made its way here yet. That's exactly what I was looking to get out of my French Box. The soap also came with a promo card for 15% off any purchase on Durance's website. I received a 3.05 oz Triple Milled Marseille soap with Verbena essential oil. If it's not the full size, it sure is close to it! The front label says "3.05 oz" but the soap actually has "3.5oz" engraved in it. It has a nice invigorating lemony scent that doesn't smell too sweet or too much like cleaning products. Judging by the photo in the info card, it's entirely possible other subscribers received different scents.

Le Panier Francais Provence French Herbs Mix (Full-size, $6.99)
This is another full size item and it is absolutely giant. A 3.5 oz bag of Provence Herbs will last you a long time. This bag contains Basil, Savory, Rosemary, Thyme, and Marjoram.  I haven't opened it yet because I know I will make a mess but the Le Panier Francais product looks very fresh and I'm sure it smells delightful. If you're not much of a cook (like myself), this could be a great way to spruce up a very simple dish. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure 9 moms out of 10 would love to receive this as a little gift!

Oshibori Refreshing Towel (Retail Price: $5.00)
Now, this is a fun product! It's a set of three rolled Oshibori 100% cotton hand towels infused with green tea (2) and white tea (1) scents and one extra flat refreshing wet towel also with green tea scent. I just love anything with green tea and the taste and smell is just so calming. So, I'm looking forward to using these after a particularly stressful day. The cute little carrying case and insert were clearly made exclusively for French Box. These are high quality cotton towels, so they are re-usable, if you so desire. However, the packaging does describe them as "single-use" and they have an expiration date of 2/2016. To use, the package says you simply heat them in a 600 watt microwave for 10 seconds. I haven't opened mine yet but through the packaging they smell very soothing with a hint of some floral notes.

Atelier Cologne Postcard (Retail Price: $3.00)
This was the only brand in this month's French Box that I'd heard of before.  It's been featured a number of times in Birchboxes. I've also seen the full size Atelier Cologne bottles for sale in a number of US and UK department stores and they're very expensive - $195-265 on So, getting a sample is quite a treat, if you like the scent you receive. The scent I received in my box is Santal Carmin. The scents I do know vary this month among subscribers. Luckily, this is one I've never received in a Birchbox. Sephora describes this one as a "woody" scent with notes of sandalwood, white musk, vanilla, bergamot, saffron, and more. I agree with that description but think it is a much lighter and more feminine "woody" fragrance than most of its type. It's definitely a fall/winter scent but the vanilla and bergamot make it a bit more powdery and soft. 

The previous six products were the ones listed out on my info card. However, there were two additional sweet little surprises. One was the above notebook with a print made especially for French Box by famed French fashion designer Christian Lacroix. The picture is titled "L'Arlesienne" which I looked up and translates roughly to "The Girl from Arles", a short story set in Provence and written by Alphonse Daudet.  It was later turned into a play. A fun little fact on Wikipedia - "Arlesienne" is now used to describe a person who is prominently absent from a place or situation where they would be expected to show up, since the title character is never show in the play.

This is a thin, soft poster board cover book with French Box branding on the back - a real exclusive piece for subscribers! The cover's a bit flimsy so you have to be gentle with it. The pages inside are completely blank and there are about 20 of them. It would make a lovely sketch book on your next trip to France!

My other surprise extra was the Sothys Contour Concealer Base.  I hadn't heard of Sothys before, but I saw that it was also featured in September's box (the very first French Box), so it must be a favorite. In other subscribers' reviews I saw that they received different Sothys products in this month's box. I know one received a mascara. I looked up this product online and it appears to be worth at least $21 - it's full size. I don't currently own a high end concealer aside from my Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer which I use quite sparingly since it's very pricey too, so this is fantastic.

This month's receipt card included instructions to make three different Provencal Dips: Ancholade, Tapenade, and Aubergine Caviar. Those will definitely come in handy for a cocktail party some day. The decorative theme card for this month was also really endearing. It includes the Provencal proverb, "In Provence the sun rises twice a day once in the morning and after the afternoon nap".

Overall I have to say that I was just blown away by my very first French Box experience. This box packed some amazing value, taught me a bit about Provence history and culture, and provided a good variety of items across several categories. It's a bold statement, but I think this is my favorite subscription box to date. Period. 

I have to admit that $24/month is a really hefty price tag to me - not that the products aren't worth the price, just that it's a lot to spend every month for a little indulgence on top of all the other shopping I like to do. Plus, I think the products would just pile up if I ordered this one every month. However, I definitely plan to order this one again in the future, whenever I need a little pick-me-up or start feeling some major wanderlust. It's certainly a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. So, keep your eyes peeled for future reviews some time in the coming year.

Très Bien, French Box!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Benefit + Birchbox Benefit #BeautyBash!

Last month Birchbox selected me to host a Benefit x Birchbox Beauty Bash!  Winners of the contest were sent boxes made up by both companies that contained all the right things to host a fantastic girls' night in for the hostess and five friends - beauty samples, full-size giveaways, balloons, coasters, and lots of awesome party ideas!

Hostesses were encouraged to get as creative as possible, but were also supplied with games, cocktail ideas, and decorations on a special Benefit x Birchbox Beauty Bash website.  We were free to host our party at any time during National Wing Women Weekend, September 26th-28th, 2014.  I hosted mine on the night of the 26th and was actually able to invite 7 friends because I got extra lucky and got sent 2 party packs from Benefit & Birchbox!

The color scheme of the night was definitely pink, white, and gold thanks to the adorable coasters Benefit & Birchbox sent me. They had awesome phrases like "laughter is the best cosmetic", "love awaits put on your lipstick!", "the realness of concealness", and "looking good is the best revenge". The good news? They're completely reusable, so I hope to host many more beauty bashes in the future! The giant pink balloons were a lovely addition and I finally had the chance to use the "time to drink champagne and dance on the tables" party cups I picked up at Swoozie's earlier this year during a visit to Greensboro, NC!

I had a lot of fun setting up the food and drink stations. Since the party was from 8-11pm, I made sure to offer up some substantial food for guests who didn't have dinner before.  We had veggies & dip, turkey & cheese pinwheel sandwiches, chips, and chocolate chip or white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. The drink of choice? Pink champagne of course! We mixed it up with a bit of fresh squeezed lemonade and a splash of Hendricks gin.

The boxes were chock-full of some awesome beauty items. Each guest received 4 samples in her swag bag: They're Real Push-up Liner, They're Real Mascara, The Porefessional Agent Zero Shine, and Lollitint Lip & Cheek Stain. There were also a few full-size items included in the pack like Push-up Liner, Mascara, Hoola Bronzer, and Gimme Brow Gel. I gave those away throughout the night as prizes during the different rounds of games we played. 

Throughout the party guests tried out the different make-up samples in their swag bags. The eyeliner and mascara were the big hits of the night. We all practiced making our cat eyes with lots of mirrors and makeup remover wipes on hand just in case! Most of us saved The Porefessional later and a few of us tried to create some bold looks with the Lollitint - a little product goes a long way.

We also had a blast playing a few of the games Benefit & Birchbox created for us. We played several rounds of "Flattergories" a fun game where one person picked a letter of the alphabet and the rest had to fill out words starting with that letter under all the categories on the page as quickly as possible. We got some pretty wild answers as the night went on! The other game was "Wing-O" which was a fun take on Bingo with all kinds of fun scavenger hunt type activities. In this case, "Pink Drinks" was the easy box to cross off!

The rest of the night was spent chatting away, listening to music, catching up with old friends, and introducing new ones! We finished off the night with several rounds of "Heads Up!", a fun iPhone based charades type game. If you haven't checked it out - you must! It's the perfect ice breaker.

Sending lots of love to my beautiful wing women - Liza, Amanda, Laura, Naari, Yuliya, Lyniese, and Melanie! Thank you all so much for coming. I think this is the start of many awesome girls' nights in! A huge thank you to Benefit Cosmetics and Birchbox for making it all possible and giving us an excellent excuse to all get together.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Sample Society Mystery Box Review + Coupon

Beauty Bar is offering another round of exciting discounted mystery Sample Society boxes. They've put together "grab bags" of sorts with various samples from previous months' Sample Society subscription beauty boxes.

For $10 you can get 5 samples in a box ($15 value), for $18 you get 10 samples ($30 value), and for $25 you get 15 samples ($45) value. You can buy all 3 options HERE.

I purchased a box of 10 samples a couple weeks ago. Since I'm an email subscriber and happened to have a coupon code then, I snagged it for just $14.40 rather than $18! Although I don't believe that promo code still applies you can get $25 OFF a purchase of $100+ on with the code "FALLCARE14" at checkout.

Curious what you might get? Here's my mystery box - revealed:


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Birchbox "Fanfare" October 2014 Review

I love this month's Birchbox theme. "Fanfare" is so perfect for this time of year - football season's kicking off, baseball season is reaching its climax, and most importantly all the awesome fall TV premieres are going on! My personal faves so far - "Once Upon a Time" and "New Girl" returning and the premieres of "Forever", "From A to Z", and "Selfie". Which shows are you checking out this season?

Well, back to the Birchbox! That's what you're really here for, right? This time around we had another option to select 1 of the samples. The choices were a Lord & Berry eyeliner, ModelCo Lipstick, or 1 of 2 different Mally lip glazes. Alternatively, you could pick the Laggie collab box.  Although I wasn't super psyched about any of the options this time around, I went for the ModelCo Lipstick because it was a full size lipstick and I adored the double sided ModelCo lipstick/lipgloss I received previously in a Popsugar Must Have Box.

My box contained: BeeKind Body Lotion (Full-size, $15), Dr. Brandt Pores no More Vacuum Cleaner (Full-size, $45), Harvey Prince Petaly Noir Fragrance (Full-size, $55), Lord & Berry Paillettes Glitter Eye Pencil in Black (Full-size, $18), and ModelCo Party Proof Lipstick in Kitty (Full-size, $24).

This lipstick is pretty versatile. It's a very neutral nude shade that looks very natural.  Despite it being billed as a "matte lipstick" I thought it gave off quite a bit of shine. I don't know if it is "party proof" but it definitely lasted through a meal and several hours afterward. It has the same great strawberry smell/taste as the other ModelCo products I have. If you're not keen on strawberries though, that could be a major turn-off. The actual lipstick comes in a trio set so although I like it a lot, I'm not sure I'd be willing to pay up for 3 lipsticks of varying colors when I only just needed one. That being said, if you don't already have a good variety of colors the set could be very useful.

I was most excited about this sample (Dr. Brandt Pores No More) in my box because it is a brand with a great reputation and I've heard the product is fantastic. It's also very expensive so I would definitely want to try it first before buying it.  I don't have any blackheads at present so I haven't tried it yet, but it will definitely come in handy when I need it!

I was definitely not very excited about the Lord & Berry eyeliner, although I'm sure others would have been. It was one of the sample choices and I didn't pick it. Like I said, I picked the ModelCo lipstick. While with some of the other months' sample choices I would have been delighted to receive 2 of them, I didn't feel that way this month. This eyeliner is highly saturated with glitter. Being in my late 20's, I think I have outgrown that look now - call me boring if you'd like! So, although it's a good quality product it's just not for me.

The BeeKind lotion is another very ordinary body lotion. It's got a thin, very average texture. The only differences between this and the many very similar products I've already received in Birchboxes is that this one has a very strong sweet lemon scent (it literally smells just like Lemonheads candies) and that it is made with honey and organic chamomile extracts. I was surprised to turn over the tube and see that this was yet another Gilchrist & Soames product. You may notice, this is the third Gilchrist & Soames body lotion I've received so far this year from Birchbox (Gilchrist & Soames body lotion in March, Gilchrist & Soames Spa Therapy body lotion in May). I'm really not in need of another body lotion, so I was less than thrilled to receive the first two and a third - from the same brand with the same texture/consistency? Hmm. I'm hoping this will be the last body lotion from Birchbox for a while. 

You may remember my rave reviews of the Harvey Prince "Hello" fragrance and "Ageless" shower gel in previous Birchboxes. Well, Harvey Prince yet again did not disappoint. The "Petaly Noir" scent is definitely unique. It took me a couple spritzes to form an opinion because it is so different from the soft florals I typically wear. However, I am sold. This is a fantastic scent for fall/winter wear. It has rich notes of sandalwood, orchid, and what I would identify as peppercorn. It actually reminds me quite a bit of the Jo Malone "Pomegranate Noir" scent but slightly more floral and feminine. I definitely plan on incorporating this into my perfume routine during the cold winter months!

Overall it was a pretty decent box. Lots of practical items. I am really excited to try the Dr. Brandt, enjoyed the ModelCo lipstick and Harvey Prince fragrance, and will probably end up swapping or gifting the body lotion and eyeliner. What are your thoughts about this month's box? What items did you get?

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Disclaimer: I am currently employed by UK Trade & Investment. However, all written content and opinions expressed on this blog (including and especially those regarding British brands) are my own. This is a personal blog that is in no way affiliated with my place of employment.

Friday, October 10, 2014

C.Wonder NYC Sample Sale Returns Tuesday!

C. Wonder Sample Sale

October 14th-19th, 2014
Tuesday: 9am-8pm
Wednesday: 9am-7pm
Thursday/Friday/Saturday: 10am-7pm
Sunday: 10am-5pm

260 Fifth Avenue, Between 28th & 29th Streets

Cash & all credit cards accepted. Final sale.

Know before you go: check out my review of the last C.Wonder sample sale HERE.

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