Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Incredible Growing Bag

*I received this free for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own*

I love tiny things that open up to be giant, whether it's an umbrella or the coat my husband bought me one year. So when Dot&Dot sent me this amazing travel bag I was over the moon. It was soooo tiny and flat, I could not believe it. I might have just sat down and giggled for 10 minutes. I love Dot&Dot, they make the greatest travel accessories and this might be my favorite one to date just because of how practical it is. Is the suspense killing you yet?

This small little square (which if I had paid more attention while folding it back up would have been like an inch wide) opens up and unfolds into a full sized gym bag. Crazy right? I'm pretty sure there is some sort of magic involved in how this all packs together. There's a zipper that basically spirals around it, slowly flattening it to the compact size you see here.

This bag is HUGE! I could have put my son it it with room to spare, it is a full sized gym bag. I actually tested this over Christmas to haul presents back and forth between our place and the Grandparents house and it worked like a charm. It held everything, including the super heavy stuff without a tear. There are so many vacations I've been on where having a bag like this would have been a life saver. I've bought luggage while on vacation just to hold the stuff I was bringing back. Having a bag that fold up this tiny is a brilliant idea. And these are only $26.99 with free Prime shipping, which is about how much you'd spend on a nice gym bag anyways.

Monday, December 28, 2015

HYKO Brightening Serum

*I received this free for reviewing purposes. All opinions are 100% my own*

Face serums are one of the most forgotten parts of the skin care regime in my opinion. Everybody knows about moisturizer, acne/anti-aging treatments, eye cream, and toner. But I'd bet you 80% of people who do a daily skin care routine don't use a serum, which is a shame because they rock. I have one I use at night, but not a daily one, so I was excited to test out a hyaluronic and kojic acid one by Bauana Naturals.

Pretty sure you are sitting there going what they heck is kojic acid? If you've been reading this blog for a while now you should be familiar with hyaluronic acid (a really great moisturizer for those who don't know), but kojic acid is a new one to me. According to the Google, kojic acid is basically this stuff produced my several types of fungi that helps prevent discoloration (hence the brightening aspect of this serum). It also seems to have radiation protecting properties, which is kind of cool. Give it a Google if you want to learn more. So in a nut shell this moisturizes and brightens your skin.

The serum itself is clear and pretty watery, which I actually prefer for day time products. I like stuff that absorbs quickly into the skin, so this was perfect for me. There's a slight floral scent to it, but it went away basically as soon as I rubbed it into my face. I've definitely noticed a chance in my skin tone and evenness, the dark spots I had along one side of my jaw are fading. I already use moisturizers every morning and evening so I didn't notice a change there, but since it's been just above freezing here and there are no dry patches on my face I'd say this is helping for sure.

I'm actually pretty impressed with what I've seen so far out of this serum, I'm really looking forward to what my face will look like after a whole month of use. If you are interested in trying this out for yourself, you can pick up a 1 oz bottle for $35 (free Prime shipping) here.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Simply Earth Pine Essential Oil

*I received this free for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own*

One of the things I have really grown to love since starting this blog was making all sorts of DIY bath and beauty items. I'm a pretty crafty person normally, so it has been really nice to expand my skills into other areas. I've grown to really love essential oils and am slowly growing my collection. Simply Earth was kind enough to send me a second oil to review in addition to the Bergamot Oil review I did the other week. This time I'm looking at their Pine Essential Oil, which is a scent/type I've never seen before.

Like I said in the previous review, Simply Earth donates 7.5% of the profits from their sales to a different charity each month. I talk more about this in the previous review so go check that out if you are curious. This bottle is the exact same size and type as the Bergamot  oil, which I like. The label on the back lists the pine used in this oil as coming from Hungary, and that the aroma is "Evergreen and Woody". This smells like pine needles so much that I keep expecting my hands to be sticky with sap. While I'm not sure of the beauty uses of pine oil, I want to make a room diffuser out of it for sure. I bet with just a bit of bergamot and peppermint it would smell just like Christmas.

I'm once again impressed by the quality of the oils from this brand and I think this is worth the $5.99 (plus $2.99 shipping) price tag for sure. I may have to explore this brand some more and see if there are any other oils I'm interested in getting once my bank account has recovered from Christmas shopping.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Valentia True Glow Eye Cream

*I received this product free for reviewing purposes. All opinions are 100% my own*

If you were to take a look in my bathroom and count how many eye creams, gels, and serums I have you would probably organize an intervention for me. My point is, I love eye treatments. I love how they feel, how they make the skin around my eyes look, and how they can take me from zombie to hottie in a flash. So I'm always game to try a new eye cream out, and this Valentia True Glow Eye Cream has been on my list of products to try for about 6 months now. I feel like everybody and their mother have blogged about this lately, and now it's my turn I guess.

This is suppose to me a complete all in one sort of eye cream. It fights wrinkles, diminishes dark circles, depuffs the eyes, and hydrates the skin. It comes in your standard glass bottle with a pump that I see all the time and is both made in the USA and Cruelty Free. This should be right up my alley, so how did it actually perform?

It was so middle of the road I actually forgot about writing this post up. It is just...meh. Did it hydrate my skin? Sure, but I've got 3 others that do a much better job. And my Olay eye cream that I use in the mornings ran circles around this one in the dark circle category. That was kind of the name of the game with this product, everything it did I had other eye products that did it better. And there is a LOT of waste when you use it, as you can see in the picture above. That's one pump, and you can't do a half pump with this particular pump, so instead of only using a rice sized about I get enough to cover my whole face every time I used it. In fact, my bottle is about 20% empty and I really haven't used it that much.

All in all this item is a total pass for me, I've got way better products in my beauty arsenal and for $24.99 (with free Prime shipping), I expect a whole lot more than middle of the pack. Have you tried this eye cream? Am I being totally unfair to it? Let me know in the comments what you think.

Monday, December 21, 2015

December Birchbox #2 2015

I love the months that I get two Birchboxes, it just makes me so happy for some reason. And if I get a bad box or a few items I don't like between the two I'm guaranteed to have a box full of stuff I like typically. I reviewed the Winter Essentials box the other week, and it was a decent box for me minus the screw up with my eyeshadow color, so I was excited to see what was in my regular box. I'm always hoping to get two fabulous boxes, that's my ideal situation. Instead I got a groan worthy box that was full of stuff I can't use.

While it is a nice full box, you can probably see why I'm disappointed in it. First, two hair care items NOT designed for short hair, and two repeats from my Winter Essentials box. Granted, the eyeshadow wasn't suppose to be a repeat, but since they sent the wrong color in the other box this is a repeat. The breakdown of the box is two makeup, one skincare, and two hair care items. Since I reviewed the Juarra nail balm and the green/gold shadow duo in the other box I won't talk about them again. They are getting passed onto a friend and I'll keep the green/gold one I swatched already.

This is the duo that I was suppose to receive in the other box, and as luck would have the replacement Birchbox sent arrived a day or two before this box so I though I would do the review now. The shade on the left is a matte pale pink color and the one on the right is a shimmery metallic pink.

This is a quick swatch with my finger on bare skin (no primer), and I'm already in love with the right color. The left color is a bit chalky and I have similar colors in my Revealed 2 palette, but that shimmery pink is gorgeous! I will be comparing it to my Revealed 2 palette though since it seems a bit familiar. I'll be buying the set of three palettes these duos are from no matter what, but I want to see anyways.

I was really surprised to see a L'Oreal product in my Birchbox, they're more of a drugstore brand and not what Birchbox usually carries. This is from their Professionals line, which is suppose to be like salon quality hair care items. Normally I'd be all over a decent sized sample of a hair mask, but my hair is literally an inch long right now. I'm really not using deep conditioners right now, maybe twice a month max. And I'm side eyeing some of the ingredients, like rubbing alcohol. Why is there rubbing alcohol (a very drying ingredient) in a deep conditioning hair mask? A full sized tub is also $37, which is batshit crazy you guys. A tub of Amika deep conditioning hair mask is only $24, and Amika is a really nice brand. I'd rather buy a nice brand than a drugstore brand pretending to be nice.

Ah, the major fail. Pre-chemo me would have loved this to pieces for sure. This is the Serge Normant Dream Big Instant Volumizing Spray. What exactly am I suppose to volumize? My inch long hair? Not going to happen, unless the q-tip look is in fashion right now. This will go into the box of stuff I can't use yet and maybe next December I'll have enough hair to justify using this.

While this isn't a fail it did earn an eye roll from me. This is a new product from Benefit, I'm not actually sure if you can buy it yet or if we are the first to use it. It's a tinted mascara primer. Yup, you read that right, a tinted mascara primer. Supposedly you can wear it alone for a "natural" look or wear it under your mascara for added length and separation. Here's the problem I'm having with it, shouldn't the mascara I use do that? Like I buy specific mascaras because they make my lashes into the drama queens they deserve to be, so why do I need to add yet another step into my beauty routine to do what my mascara already does? Granted, I haven't tried this yet and it may be a fantastic product, but I'm a little over the whole "everything needs a primer" trend of 2015. Primer for my face and eyeshadow makeup sure, but my hair does not need primer, my lips do not need primer, and my primer does not need primer.

At least my other box was pretty decent, otherwise I'd be really upset. This box for me wasn't even worth the $10 I spent and I'm not excited to try a single thing from it. The only winner was the eyeshadow that didn't even come in this box. Hopefully my January box will blow this one out of the water and I'll be less cranky.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Neocell Biotin Bursts

*I received this free for reviewing purposes. All opinions are 100% my own*

While being a beauty blogger has many perks, it can also be really hard on your skin and nails. Between the constant nail polish testing, testing out new skincare stuff, and the chemo my skin, hair, and nails are dry and brittle. One of the things all doctors recommend to help with that is follic acid and biotin. Now I get plenty of follic acid from the foods I eat, but biotin isn't that easily found in my food. That's where these Neocell Biotin Bursts come in, they're a biotin supplement packed in a delicious chewy package.

If you've ever done like a fish oil supplement, you know they are nasty (don't get me started on the liquid versions), so I was pretty leery abouty trying one of these squares. They're purple color and mouth watering scent finally convinced me to pop one in my mouth and oh man are they good! Softer than a Starburst and they taste like the berry Skittles, they are the easiest medicine I've ever taken that's for sure. Only eating one a day is the hardest part of this daily supplement I've decided.

Like all supplements these will take about a month to really see if they are working, so I've have to update you later on my final thoughts. But I have noticed my skin looks great lately (which could be the skincare items I'm testing obviously) and my poor hair is growing back in nicely. They're under $15 on Amazon right now, so about average price wise with a months worth of any supplement. I like them enough that I'll be buying another bag full when mine is finished up.

Simply Earth Bergamot Essential Oil

*I received this free for testing/reviewing purposes. All opinions are 100% my own*

If you were to ask me what my all time favorite scent is I would tell you either citrus or bergamot, with bergamot being my favorite during non-summer months. There is just something relaxing and yet spicy about the scent. I got a custom blended perfume once with bergamot in it, I still mourn the end of that perfume. I've been slowly adding to my essential oil collections with the long term goal of making a bunch of different bath products and maybe some perfume. So when I was given a chance to try my favorite essential oil I was all gimme gimme gimme!

Simply Earth is a line of 100% pure essential oils with an added bonus of being a really great company. 7.5% of every purchase is donated to a different non-profit organization each month. I LOVE companies that give back like that and I try to suppose them as best as I can. This month (December) the non-profit they are supporting is The Hope Projects, which helps women who have been victims of human trafficking. Simply Earth is a religious company, which I know matters both positively and negatively to people so I thought I would mention it. I won't get into my own personal beliefs on this blog, so please do not ask me. I'm reviewing a product not a company's mission statement.

The bergamot oil smells exactly how you would expect it to, like bergamot. There's a nice little sidebar on the label that states where the oil came from, the country of origin,  and the aroma profile. This is a nice little infograph for people who might not be familiar with a particular scent. Like most essential oils, it comes in a brown glass bottle with a little drop top in it. I liked it, though there isn't really much to say about it. It smells nice and the packaging was nice. They are $6.99 plus $2.99 shipping on Amazon, so a pretty decent price I think.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Shaken Not Stirred

*I received this free for reviewing purposes. All opinions are 100 % my own*

The art of making a good cocktail requires not only good materials (sorry, that super cheap vodka isn't going to cut it) but the right tools for the job. You can't roast a turkey without a roast pan and you can't make a martini without a cocktail shaker. With the holidays and the associated parties upon us it might be time to update your home bar or maybe you have a friend who likes to make a stiff drink or two. A nice new cocktail shaker by Mixologist World is just what you need.

This set comes with a nice and heavy metal cocktail shaker, a jigger for measuring, and a a set of recipes to make classic and delicious drinks to wow your friends. The size is just right to hold a ton of ice while making your drink, which is key to a perfectly blended and chilled adult beverage. The metal also helps to evenly distribute the chill, something that cheap plastic shaker you've had since college just can't do. Seriously, it's time to ban the plastic shakers.

The jigger is an often ignored necessity that will be a welcome addition to your bar. Unless you are a professional bartender and can measure out an ounce in your sleep you will need something to quickly and efficiently measure the alcohol for your drinks. While I like a strong drink as much as the next person, too much (or too little) of something can throw the whole cocktail out of balance.

This is a really nice set and I already know someone who will be getting their very own for Christmas this year. If you would like to purchase one for yourself they are available here for $25.97 with free Prime shipping.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Winter Essentials 2015 Birchbox

Winter is that time of year where everything is decorated, music is playing on every speaker, and cold, dry air to dry out your skin and hair. Nothing quite like below freezing temperatures to make you stock up on lotion. The editor box from Birchbox this month is called the Winter Essentials box and is full of products to help keep you looking and feeling good this holiday season. I love these themed boxes, they always have the best curating I think. And since the weather here has been super cold (well below freezing some days) I was more than ready for some Birchbox help.

This box has 6 items in it, though the sixth item is more of a treat than a beauty product. There are two beauty items, two skincare items, a hair care item, and the bonus treat. That's a nice ratio of items, I hate getting boxes that seem to be all one thing. The box itself is pretty, but a bit plain compared to the November box (which is in my top 5 designs for sure). And as a bonus I got this box ridiculously fast. As in two days after I ordered it, even though I used standard shipping. So kudos to Birchbox for being awesome.

Let's start with the eyeshadow duo I received. Some of you may be looking at the picture and thinking "that's not the shadow that comes with the box." And you would be right, I was sent the wrong one by mistake. I've already contacted customer service about it and they have the correct one being shipped to me as we speak. All the boxes this month are getting an eyeshadow duo from Coastal Scents's new palette set, you just had the option to pick which duo you got. I actually picked this green and gold duo for my regular box and a pink set was suppose to come in this box. I'll be gifting the extra green/gold duo to a friend when it arrives.

Aren't these gorgeous swatches? I LOVE how pretty they are and I know my picture doesn't do them justice. Coastal Scents has great eyeshadows so I know I'll be picking up their new palettes after all my Christmas shopping is done and I have money again.

Chuao is a tasty chocolate company that makes some super unique chocolate bars, like this one. It's a chocolate pod (aka individual sized bar) with pieces of cinnamon toast cereal in it. I don't like cinnamon cereal but that's my son and husband's favorite so they split it. Hubby said it was alright, the kiddo loved it though. I've had other bars from them and I do like them. If you don't want to order them online I have seen them at Target. This was a fun little perk for sure, I love it when we get bonus items.

I normally love getting things like this, but my hair isn't quite to the length I need to really use and enjoy a leave in conditioner. I haven't tried eSalon before, or even heard of them to be truthful, but I'll stick this into the box of stuff to use as my hair gets longer. It is a decent sized tube though and does smell nice, so it can't be awful.

This was the one item going in I knew I'd have to pass on. Juara makes some great skincare items, but I'm dealthy allergic to coconut so this coconut hand and nail balm is getting passed onto the same friends who are getting the extra green shadow duo. I'll let you guys know what they thought of it, but I'm expecting good things for sure.

How adorable is that little tube? I put a regular sized tube of lipstick next to it for a size comparison. It is soooo cute!

This tiny little baby is by Jane Iredale and is their Just Kissed Lip and Cheek stain in Forever Peach. I haven't tried it on my cheeks yet, but it did give my lips a nice and bright glow to them. And it smells so good, I want to eat it.

There's just a nice peachy tint to it, and according to the info card it will adjust to your skin for a natural, customized shade. This is a very Spring/Summer feeling color, which makes it a nice little perk up in dreary December. And since it's a baby sized lippie I can probably actually finish it before 2017 rolls around.

And last we have one of the items I was most excited about. Derma e is an awesome skincare line that I pick up from time to time at Marshalls for pennies on the dollar (love their clearance section) and I've been wanting to try their microdermabrasion scrub forever.

While the jar looks pretty nicely sized the bottom is false and there is really only two uses in their. I hate when companies do that, it just feels like they are lying to me. And at almost $33 a pop I want to know if it actually works before I buy it. I'm testing out a bunch of other skincare items right now so this will have to wait for a bit. But I'm going to enjoy using it even if I did get lied to.

Overall I really liked this box. I thought the curation was great, the items picked were perfect for a winter essentials box, and I'm really happy with my items minus the few hiccups. And for $10 the value is there for sure just in the lipstick and face scrub. Add in everything else and the value goes up fast.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dot&Dot Small Packing Cube

*I received this free for testing and reviewing purposes. All opinions are 100% my own*

Dot&Dot is a brand I've reviewed a few times before on this blog and I've loved them across the board so I'm always giddy when I get the opportunity to review another item for them. If you've never heard of Dot&Dot they are a travel accessory company that specialized in products to make your luggage more organized. I've reviewed their Travel Folder and their Silicone Toiletries Set, and I think I have their whole product line in my wish list right now.

The Dot&Dot Travel cubes are small to large zip up cubes to help keep your clothing organized and divided up in your luggage. I received the small one in the color red, but they have a ton of different colors to choose from. Red is my favorite color so I chose it, though it was a close tie with the pink one. The small size is 11'' x 6.75'' x 3", so a few inches bigger than a zip up lunch box. This particular size would be great for holding all your underwear, bras, swimsuits, and socks together, or if you were just going for a day or two your shirts could easily fit in it if you are a smaller person like I am.

I actually discovered that the small cube is the perfect size to hold my A5 size binder, planner, little bullet journal, and my pen collection, so I've been using it to keep all of that together in my bag for work. The handle on the side of it makes it super easy to take it out of my bag and carry it to wherever I feel like working that day (aka the room with the heater on).

The mesh window makes it really easy to see what is inside of it, and they seem pretty sturdy. The material reminds me a lot of what my backpack is made of, so I'm hopeful that this will last me a while. They are $11 with free Prime shipping, which is a great deal! I kind of want one in every color and every size. And if you have a traveler in your life, these would make an excellent present for sure.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Hi everybody and welcome to another week's edition of Thursday Thoughts, which is my weekly link up with Jen of Ramblings of a Suburban Mom. Let's dive right in shall we?

Oh my giddy aunt can you guys believe it's December already?!? This is always such a busy month for me and with my added medical stuff going on this month may be the (figurative) death of me. But I love the holiday season, so I really don't mind. All the Christmas stuff comes out of the closet this weekend so I'm trying to deep clean and rearrange some furniture this week in preparation. Have you guys put up your holiday decor yet? I have some friends that do like 4 trees, which is crazy. Sorry friends, I love you but 4 trees? That's a whole lot of Christmas tree stuff. Although they do look pretty, and I might be a tad bit jealous.

So if you aren't following me on Instagram (which you totally should be), I'm making awesome progress on my Project Pan. I finished another product the other day and I'm super close to finishing a few more items. I won't get every single item done but I'm pretty happy with my progress. Love doing these Progress Pans, they really force me to use stuff up and basically shop my stash. I find I rarely buy anything besides the stuff I'm actively using up, like shampoo and soap, when I do a Project Pan. Maybe its because I'm so focused on those products I don't want to even think about other items? For 2016 I'm going to do a Pan That Palette instead of a few monthly Project Pans just to both shake things up and so I can use up that ridiculously huge 100 eyeshadow palette I have from ELF cosmetics.

Thanksgiving was awesome, my husband's family is always fun to be around and are just wacky and crack me up. We always end up playing some weird game that ends up being one of those "OMG what are you doing" moments. Like last Christmas I have a very vivid memory of someone shoving bread into their shirt during a game. I hope all of you had an equally awesome Thanksgiving if you celebrate it. If not then I hope you had an awesome Thursday.

I finally painted my nails again after like a month of naked nails. Does anybody miss Mani Monday? I really miss Mani Monday and I'll have to start doing them again for December. Full holiday themed nails are just what the doctor ordered. I also have a giant nail polish haul/review that should be up this weekend, so stay tuned for that.

I have two Birchboxes coming this month plus two Birchbox hauls (didn't I just say I wasn't buying things?), although one of them is basically full of stuff for my Husband. But I want to talk about some of the stuff I got him for reasons I can't tell you yet without spoiling the review. Hoping I get some really good mystery sample packs in those orders, someone on my social media just posted theirs and they got two full sized items. And I remember one gal got a Beauty Blender last year in her sample pack! I want a free bonus like that!

And I saved the most exciting news for last, Best Beauty for my Buck is now on YouTube! You can watch my very first video here, and please subscribe to my channel as well. I'll probably put new videos up sporatically, I don't have plans right now for a strict schedule, but I'd like to put a few up a month. Video number one is my October and November empties and is about 15 minutes long. What kind of videos would you guys like to see? I know I want to do tutorials on my channel for sure, but I'm open to suggestions.