September Birchbox

It has been one whole year from the start of my Birchbox subscription.  I have enjoyed each month immensely and felt it was a wonderful way to learn about new brands, products, tips, and the like.  September is also the anniversary month of Birchbox, this being its second year in business.  This month's focus is on fall fashion and new trends for the season.  I receive seven(!) lovely samples plus a mini-magazine put together by Birchbox of their favorite fall trends.

Two of these products are exclusive to Birchbox.  One being Twistband hair ties, and the other exclusive colors of ColorClub nail polish.

Also in my box was Benefit's foamingly clean face wash and refined finish face polish.  I am in the market for a new daily face wash.  This one smells wonderful and leaves my face feeling squeaky clean.   However, I felt it removed too much moisture from my face.  The polish was a bit more my style, and ironically enough didn't feel as harsh on my skin.

Have you used a BB cream yet?  I received Dr Jart Water Fuse Beauty Balm and had a chance to compare is to a drugstore version of a BB cream.  A BB cream is a combination product of moisturizer, serum, SPF, and are usually tinted, so there is no need for foundation or cover up.  I absolutely love this concept.  However, I prefer to use a moisturizer under my BB cream.  While I loved Dr Jart's cream, I think I might like my drugstore version a bit better.  Dr Jart had a heaver feeling, the cream felt a bit more like clay then lotion.  While that make work for someone wanting more coverage, I don't particularly like heavy creams on my face in hot, humid, southern summers.  I keep it around to try again once the weather around here cools off.

My final face product is Caudalie Vinexpert Firming Serum.  The serum is meant to be applied under moisturizer as a prep for the face to better absorb the moisturizer.  Plus, the have their own benefits.  Maybe my skin isn't mature enough to appreciate this product, but I have tried several and haven't noticed any difference.  Perhaps in another 10 years I'll understand.

And the last sample is a tili Bag.  Basically, this is a plastic zip-top bag adorned with colorful patterns.  Mine is pretty thick plastic and is meant to be used to hold anything.  It would be perfect for containing cosmetics in a purse or diaper bag, or even while traveling by plane.  I already use zip-top bags for these purposes, and its nice to have a bright turquoise animal-print bag to add to the mix.

Also included this month is a coupon for a $25 gift card for Madewell (if $75 worth of merchandise is purchased).  I haven't used the coupon yet, and I'm unsure if I will since it expires at the end of  the month.  I don't really need any new clothes.  However, I appreciate getting a coupon I would actually use.

So, the big question, was the year worth it?  I think yes.  I enjoyed the surprise every month.  I tried and learned about new products and brands, thus expanding my knowledge of beauty products and tips.  I really loved trying high end products I would have never bought and comparing them to the cheap stuff I buy at Walgreens.  I did learn that yes, some more expensive products are worth it, they last longer and do a better job, so I might as well save my pennies for a few of them instead of having a makeup-drawer full of junk.  I purchased more products in the beginning, but I did learn to pace myself and found how to weed out what really works for me and what I will only use seasonally.  Plus, the rewards points are really nice.  I'm not going to feature my box every month any longer, but if I find a product I love, I'll probably share it.  Oh, and Birchbox has no idea about me babbling on about their company.  I'm honestly just this excited about what I've learned and experienced, I thought other people would want to know.

Past boxes if you are interested in learning more: first box, second box, and a random one.


A post from my iPhone

I downloaded an app so I can attempt to post from my fancy new phone. My apologies if this post doesn't turn out so hot. But if it works, you can anticipate more frequent posts from me in the future!
Baby boy, Hubby, and I went for a walk this morning after running a few errands. I asked Handsome if he wanted to go for a walk, and he said "yes, in the stroller, mommy". Someone is a bit lazy. We walked around the lake at a park near our house. It started out nice, but the sun got hot real quick. I am anxious for some cooler days to hurry up and arrive.

So I Wanna be Artsy

If there is one thing I wish I could do well, it is paint. I've always been fascinated by art, especially paintings. It doesn't matter if it is oil, watercolor, still life, or abstract.  I wish I took art classes and had my own sunny corner studio to step an easel.  It seems utterly romantic.  Recently, as I was browsing Michael's trying to figure out how to recreate something I saw on Pinterest, I decided to buy some acrylic paint and a canvas and try.  Now, six canvases and several bottles of paint later, I can say I've tried.  And here's what I have to prove it.

This is my first project.  I got the idea from a bottle of perfume I own, Twirl, by Kate Spade.  The bottle has gold polka dots scattered over the bottle, being more concentrated at the bottom.  Apparently, there is also china in the same pattern, and I saw a pin on Pinterest where someone put gold dots on a canvas.  I prefer cool tones and wanted some art for my living room, so I picked out two shades of blue/green paint, purchased a canvas (actually two in case I messed up) and a circle stencil.  I drew the circles in pencil and filled them in with paint.  I had to do several coats, so the whole project took a few hours with drying time.  It's definitely not perfect, but it makes me happy.

I also made this one from a pin.  I painted a white canvas with chalkboard paint and used a stencil.  There is no way I can letter that nicely, especially with a brush.  I love how it turned out.

This little guy I simply made while messing around.  Yes, I really like blue, so I used three colors of blue and mixed in some silver and taupe.  I blended and dabbed to my hearts content.  I had no vision, just wanted something blue and fluid to go on my mantle.  So there you have it.

I got lucky, I purchased the paint at 40% off, and the canvases were buy one get one free.  Without the sale, I'm not sure I would have took the plunge.  I find painting relaxing and take great pleasure in it.  I hope I can continue my new hobby, even though it means late nights for me.  I'm not ready to paint while my kiddos are awake. 

Any other creative wannabes out there?  I love the idea of creating something special for our home, something my kiddos will remember someday, and maybe fight over to have in their house.  Ha.  Forget I said that, I don't want to think about my kiddos growing up!  Seriously, though, what do you do to decorate and make your home meaningful?


How To Make a Body Scrub from Your Kitchen

I am such a girly girl.  I love feeling beautiful and experimenting with my "look".  I adore make-up, fragrances, and playing with my hair.  Unfortunately, these things add up in terms of money, storage space, and time.  I have gone through many phases where I purge all or most of my products to reduce inventory down to my absolute favorites.  However, in no time, my tastes change and I am in want of a new product.  I really try to buy quality products over quantity, one reason why I love my Birchbox subscription.  I love trying new things without regretting a full-size purchase.  When I'm having a bad day or need some alone time, I enjoy locking myself in the bathroom and spending hours re-styling my hair, trying out new eyeshadow, or giving myself a manicure.
Recently, I have also found a new love in creating things, such as artwork for the walls or painting furniture.  I decided to try my hand at spa products, specifically, scrubs.  It seems the easiest to start with, and I wanted to see if I could things I have on hand, that way in case I failed I wouldn't have wasted too much money.  I started by doing a Google search, then altered to recipes to what I had in my kitchen.

Face Scrub
Brown sugar
olive oil
Honestly, I didn't measure anything.  I used a spoonful or two of sugar and added in a bit of honey, then the oil.  More oil then honey.  I mixed it in a small gladware container to take with me to the shower.

I chose sugar over salt because its supposed to be gentler on the skin.  I slathered it on my face while I was in the shower.  I scrubbed a bit, then let it sit while I did a different scrub on my body.  After a few minutes, I rinsed it off.  My skin was super soft and smooth.  I don't think its something I should do everyday, but maybe once or twice a week.  I might try it with a different oil, maybe coconut, almond or grapeseed.  I could even add essential oil if I feel fancy and want fragrance.  I'm certain I will try this again.

Body Scrub
coffee grounds
white sugar
dash of cinnamon
splash of vanilla
olive oil
Again, I didn't really measure this out.  Have you figured out I don't have the patience for precision?  I suppose because my job requires it I throw it out the window at home.  Anyway, I used about half as much sugar as I did coffee grounds.  Just a bit of cinnamon and vanilla for scent, and enough oil to coat it all.  My mixture was not soupy by any means, just clumpy.  Both the sugar and coffee grounds act as an exfoliater, but the caffeine in the coffee is a vasoconstrictor and cellulite re-distributor.  It helps diminish the appearance of varicose veins  I'm not sure how much of this is true, but it definitely softens this skin and smells awesome in the shower, as long as you like coffee, I suppose.
However, I will warn you, this made a mess in my shower.  There are coffee grounds EVERYWHERE.  While sugar and salt will dissolve in water and be flushed away, the coffee grounds will not.  Plus, the dark color against my white shower make the evidence all the more obvious.  Point being, don't plan on keeping this a secret from your hubby unless you also block time to clean the shower afterwards.  But that erases all relaxing/spa-like quality time you just had.  Just sayin.
Overall, I really liked the outcome of both treatments and have made a second batch of almond oil and brown sugar. Let me know if you try these or come up with a better recipe. I'd love to hear your beauty secrets.


Meal Plans

I dunno about you, but I don't like hearing "What's for dinner".  It usually doesn't end well because I generally don't have an answer.  Especially after I've been working all day.  But the last few months or so, I've been working on my answer.  Its been coming to me slowly.

First, I heard/read of people planning out their weekly meals.  Some crazy people do it by the month.  Even more insane are people who cook multiple meals at the same time and freeze/save for later.  I promptly forgot about this nonsense.

Second, we wanted to work on our monthly budget.  Food seems to be the easiest thing I can alter around here.  At little bit of planning can go along way.  Coupon clipping takes up time and I haven't figured out how to make it work for the things my family buys.  I have to find another way.

Third, I am mentally exhausted after a day of work.  Making decisions about food while starving turns into a fast food binge.  Even that can be taxing on my brain.  The only worst question than "what's for dinner?" is "where do you want to eat?" 

One day, while browsing at Anthropologie, I found these pads of paper.  They had lists on them.  My type-A personality had a heart flip-flop.  Maybe these lists could help?  Imagine a weekly list of what to eat for dinner, plus lunch, breakfast, and snacks!  Yes, its silly to spend money on something I could easily concoct myself, but it might be worth it to motivate myself.  So I did. I bought them.  I took it one step further and used them.

These are some examples of meal plans from the past month.

I found it helps tremendously.  I try to sit down on Friday or Saturday and plan out the meals based on my work schedule.  On evenings I am off, I plan to make dinner or have something in the crockpot.  On evenings I work, we either have leftovers, frozen food, or hubby gets pizza.  I also like to write out what snacks we have so we can know at a glance what is stocked instead of staring at the pantry.  Once I have a meal plan, I make a shopping list.  Yes, I also have the handy-dandy shopping checklist.

 I keep both on the refrigerator and, yes, we actually check off what we are out of during the week.  I add to it once we make the meal plan.  My goal is to go grocery shopping once per week.  In reality, we go two to three times.  It's usually a milk and bread run, or a chocolate run.

Meal planning is worth the effort.  I enjoy spending money deliberately rather then off-the-cuff.  My money should be working for me, and this is one way I can ensure it is.  Plus, I don't have to give up eating out, I can schedule it in so I have something to look forward to.  I also like saving the plans so I can look back over the last few weeks and remember what was amazing, easy, and what not to make again.

So, what are you having for dinner?


Mantle Updates

Lately, I've been working on styling my mantle.  Its had a few different looks over the last five months.  I can't seem to get it right.  I have a vision in my head, but lack the funds and/or creativity to achieve it.  Nevertheless, I keep messing with it.  Here are a few of my attempts.

Ok, so I like this one, but it feels very cluttered.  I love the large painting, but everything else was small.  Lots of small things makes the mantle feel cluttered and so not the look I'm going for.  I want a beachy, casual vibe, not beachy junk.  I love the painting, I found it at HomeGoods for under 30 bucks.  Much better than the one on Etsy I was eying, and hubby approves of this one.  It has fluid lines like the water and I love the cool color tones.  It feels clean to me, but the clutter detracts.

So then I went extreme minimalist, at least for me.  I like the idea of tall candles on either side, but didn't want to spend the money on new ones.  I think two clear or recycled glass pillars would look awesome on either side.  The painting looks too small alone and needs something to balance it out. 

And this is where I am at today.  I'm trying for a collected look. Everything here means something to me; a group of my favorite design books, candleholders in mercury glass because I love bling, two small paintings I made, a fish gifted when we moved to the beach, the large painting to reflect the ocean, a fragrant candle, and a glass jar just because I love it.  I would like a picture of my family, but I want to have a current one taken first.

What do you have on your mantle?


Pants are overrated

My parents came in town this weekend to stay for a few days.  It started off normal, we went to dinner, the kids actually behaved with minimal screaming, and afterwards we let the kiddos blow off some steam at the playground.  The setting sun combined with a nice breeze made for a lovely evening.  I love fenced in playgrounds.  The kiddos can run wild and I can sit on a bench without worries they will escape.

At one point, Princess stumbled and fell.  She wasn't sure how to react, looking towards me for a clue. 

"Brush off your hands! You're fine!"  I said, cheerfully.

She didn't quite believe me, but she did as she was told.  Her leg was also covered in dirt and bark.  Her hands quickly tried to rid herself of it.  Then, she started digging at her shorts.

"Do you have dirt in your shorts?  Do you need help?"

No answer.

Then my heart dropped.  The pants started to come off.  In a public place, with other moms staring at us.

"Keep your pants on, please.  Do you need to go potty?"

My heart continued to flip-flop.  We haven't had a potty accident yet.  I didn't have anything to change with.

The shorts came off.  She ran up the stairs to the top of the slide.  I climb after her, shorts in hand. They are dry.  She took them off only because she wanted to.  No dirt, no mess.  Now, she thinks its a game.  Little Princess in white panties and a pink tee shirt prancing away.  She goes down the slide, so I climb down.  She sees me and climbs back up the slide and laughs.  Punk.

By this point, the other moms are laughing.  My parents and Hubby think its hysterical.  Yes, its amusing, but its MY kid running away from me with no pants on at the park.  Its time to go home. She stands at the top of the slide and giggles. Eventually, she goes down the slide and I am waiting at the bottom to grab her legs to shove in her shorts.  Surprisingly, she didn't resist and we left peacefully.

As we were walking out the gate, another mom said "This will be a time to remember".

Yes, it certainly will.  I'm searing this into my memory.  I'm certain there will future moments perfect for reciting, "remember when you took your pants off at the park?"  I can't wait.