Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sampleicious: Birchbox Edition: August, September, October Boxes

After blogging about my first Nature Box, I realized I have been behind the times on my Birchbox blog posts. It appears the last post I did was in July which means I am 3 months behind, oh my! It appears I got a picture of the August box but not the other two so they will be added later.

August Box:

List of Products:
Caldrea Hand Soap
DDF® Brightening Cleanser
Juicy Couture Viva la Juicy La Fleur
per-fékt Beauty Lash Perfection Gel
Schick Hydro Silk Razor

Every month's box seems to have a theme and August was back to school. Since I didn't have time to blog about these next few boxes, it makes sense that I didn't try any of them yet either.

The Caldrea Hand Soap is $10.50 for a full size one. I'm excited to try it but other than an occasional Bath and Body Works Splurge, I'm usually happy with hand soap from the Dollar Tree. As long as it smells good, I'm happy. This one is eco-friendly which I do love and it does come in six scents: Basil Blue Sage has notes of basil, sage, rosemary, while Ginger Pomelo combines zingy ginger and zesty grapefruit. Sea Salt Neroli is an orange and lemon scent, while Lavender Pine balances cooling lavender with woodsy pine and cedar. Mandarin Vetiver juggles the sweetness of orange with the grassy scent of vetiver. Palmarosa Wild Mint is a floral infusion featuring geranium and palmarosa with a base note of spearmint. I'd have to check to see which scent I got in my box.

I'm currently in the market for trying a new cleanser so the DDF Brightening Cleanser intrigues me. Birchbox describes it as a cocktail of potent active ingredients works to fade the look of brown spots, scars, and redness while also leaving skin fresh and smooth. In addition to naturally brightening botanicals like mulberry bark, licorice root, and peach leaf, the formula has exfoliating glycolic and salicylic acids to refine skin’s texture and stave off blemishes. At $38 a bottle, it's a bit pricey, but if it works it might be worth it.

Perfume samples are always a favorite type of sample of mine to receive. A little sample bottle can last for a long time and I love having a variety to mix up my scent often. Birchbox describes this Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy La Fleur scent as opening with a sparkling cascade of mandarin and wild berries. Next, sweet notes of honeysuckle, gardenia petals, and jasmine peek through, followed by a lingering trace of waterlily. Sounds delightful!

Mascara is something I also haven't found the perfect one of, although I've found ones I like. They are always coming out with new and exciting mascara concepts and I'm always willing to try them. Fake lashes scare me so bring on the mascara! Birchbox describes this one as a creamy black gel made with a natural rice wax base and contains a cocktail of lash-boosting ingredients. Marine plant glycogen helps lashes appear longer, while hyaluronic acid and panthenol have moisture-boosting abilities for a lusher, fuller fringe. Each tube comes with a multi-coiled brush that helps you lift and define each and every lash, including the tiny ones at the corners of your eyes.

Finally, the August box contained a full size Schick Hydro Silk Razor. I'll probably give this razor a try to see if I like it but I can't imagine it being better than my Venus which I love. Birchbox's description of this razor reads "Made with an innovative compact oval-cartridge head, each razor is equipped with five blades for an incredibly close shave. The blades work with your legs’ natural curves to make shaving tricky spots like your knees and ankles a breeze. Our favorite part? The water-activated moisturizing serum has marine extracts and shea butter and hydrates your skin."

September Box:

List of Products:
Birchbox and Color Club® Custom Collection
BVLGARI Mon Jasmin Noir
Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25+
LiQWd Professional Volumizing Catalyst
LiQWd Volumizing Conditioner
LiQWd Volumizing Shampoo
twistband™ Lace up for Fall - 12 pack

I'm not sure I really see this theme on my own but apparently September was a Fall Fashion theme. The box came with a mini fashion trend magazine as well as the samples listed above.

First up is a social media themed bottle of nail polish. I have so many nail polishes, I'm really trying to paint my nails more often but it hasn't happened yet. I received the Insta-This which was named after instagram and was a pretty blue colors. The other colors in the collection are also named after social media sites like Pinterest and Twitter. At $8 a bottle, it's an average price for good nail polish.

As I stated above with the Juicy scent, I love having a variety of perfume samples. They last and always let me spice up my scent! This one is described as "The heart of this fragrance, sambac jasmine, is known as an aphrodisiac because of its rich, musky scent. Top notes of lily of the valley lean toward a delicate femininity, but the nougatine and wood base anchor the fragrance and develop a subtle addictive personality."

I'm forever searching for a good moisturizer with an SPF. This beauty balm has an SPF of 25 which intrigues me. This is apparently also a treatment serum mixed with moisturizer and sunblock. Birchbox describes it as a combination of glacier water, deep ocean water, hyaluronic acid, and aloe vera deeply hydrate skin to ensure you that you look dewy, never dry. Sebum-regulating ingredients keep your complexion from becoming greasy, while portulaca oleracea extract protects skin from environmental damage. The cherry on top of this multi-tasking product is broad-spectrum SPF 25+, which blocks harmful UVA and UVB rays from reaching your skin. At $32, it's not too pricey for all of that, I can't wait to try it!

I'm going to combine the LiQWd products into one paragraph. There is a volumizing catalyst, conditioner and shampoo. After shampooing and conditioning, the catalyst goes on towel dried hair. Not sure my hair needs volume but I usually bring shampoo samples on trips so I'm sure I'll try these eventually.

Finally, I received another twistband, this time a lacey one. These are very expensive for hair ties, $22 for a 12 pack, but I love them. Each twistband is made of soft elastic that keeps braids, buns, and ponytails secured. Because they’re thicker than regular hair ties, they don’t leave crimps in hair. I remember the first one I received, I didn't realize it was a sample, it was plain brown and I thought it was just a ribbon from the packaging. This one is a little fancier with a lace pattern but still functions the same as the first one.

October Box:

List of Products:
Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè (24-Hour Miracle Cream)
Karuna Hydrating Treatment Mask
Lulu Organics® Lavender + Clary Sage Hair Powder
Naked Princess Naked Shine Luscious Lip Gloss

October gave me a choice, I could get the GOOP themed box, or the normal October box. I hate these type of choices because I never know which one has better samples! I went ahead and went with the Goop even though I have no idea what it is. I may check it out after writing this blog post. I guess I'll never know what I missed in the regular box, probably something good! I had to make a similar decision back when the Teen Vogue Box came out.

First up is the 24-hour miracle cream. At first glance, I wasn't sure if this was a hair repair cream, a moisturizer, lotion or what. Apparently it is for the skin, but can have multiple uses. Birchbox says "This velvety moisturizer gives skin the ultimate silky finish, thanks to generous amounts of soothing shea butter and aloe vera. It’s rich without being heavy, and can be used on all skin types. Plus, it doubles as a makeup remover, post-shave soother, and baby cream." It's only $16 for the full-size so I'm interested.

Next is a hydrating treatment mask. I'm always down for hydrating my skin, I feel like my face is forever dry. According to Birchbox, every Karuna Mask contains Beauty Boost, a special blend of natural antioxidants that nourishes all skin types. And since the cloth is also all-natural, your pores will absorb up to 50 percent more moisture than from synthetic versions." This mask can also be applied anywhere, meaning an airplane, on your commute to or from work, etc. because it's a peel and stick kind of situation, no rinsing involved. You had me at hello. $28 for 4, not bad. Also, these are currently sold out which means they were popular!

The Lulu Organics Lavender hair powder is a sample I've actually received before. Birchbox realized their mistake and added points into my bank for their mistake. I love dry shampoo but usually use a spray as opposed to straight powder. I do want to try this though, not sure why I never did the first time.

Due to my recent Nature Box subscription, I am of course always interested in healthy snacks. These Luna bars are supposedly full of needed nutrients and come in different flavors. I received Lemon Zest and if it tastes anything like a lemon bar, I'm all about it. Birchbox says "Made with 70 percent organic ingredients, LUNA Bars are full of calcium, folic acid, iron, and vitamins D—nutrients women need on a daily basis. Each bar is also a good source of protein and fiber, so you’ll feel satisfied post-snack and be less likely to reach for that bag of chips." Worth a shot, hope I like it!

Finally, Naked Princess Naked Shine Luscious Lip Gloss. That's a mouthful. I can never have too many lip glosses even though I never wear them. Pretty shine, subtle plumping powers, natural shades, sounds good to me!

So I'm finally caught up on the writing portion. As I always say, I'll update when I try these things, even though I often forget. I'll also try to add pictures. When my November box comes, I'll try to keep up with it from here on out. I think the November box may be my 1 year anniversary for Birchbox. Stay tuned...

Sampleicious: Nature Box Edition: October Box

Boxes seem to be the new internet trend, I have Birchbox for beauty samples, now I've discovered Nature Box for healthy snacks, I've even seen a Bark Box filled with monthly pet samples! Using a code I received from, I decided to give Nature Box a try. Even though I'm usually not successful, I'm always interested in trying to be healthier in my life style.

This is my first month so I really don't have anything to compare it to but I'll decide after a couple months whether it's worth continuing my subscription or not. The October box is filled with snacks to help Boost Your Immunity. Below is a list of the snacks with the official Nature Box descriptions:

Antioxidant Boost
We’ve nicknamed this snack the “Antioxidant Trifecta” – the combination of dark-skinned berries, raw nuts, and dark chocolate is a real home-run when it comes to the variety of antioxidant-rich snacks that you get in a small handful. Plus, the bits of dark chocolate make this a perfect post-meal sweet treat.

-If healthy snacks taste this good, I'm in! The bits of dark chocolate definitely made this sweet and salty snack a home run in my book.

Sun-Dried California Apricots
Straight from our farms in California and dried underneath the plentiful sunshine, these Apricots are one of the tastiest ways to get in plenty of dietary fiber each day to lessen your risk for diabetes and heart disease.

-I love dried fruit, especially dried apricots! These were delicious and I ate them rather quickly!

Cherry Berry Granola
Start your morning off right with the help of this immunity-boosting powerhouse! Our Cherry Berry Granola is a lightly sweetened but super crunchy mix of dried cranberries, cherries, and whole grain oats to rev you up and keep you going. Cinnamon and pecans are the perfect seasonal additions to this fiber-rich breakfast treat!

Sticks 'N Stones
In addition to having high levels of antioxidants that help slash your risk of chronic diseases, nuts are a great way to fill up on nutrient-dense healthy fats so you’re less likely to mindlessly munch on “nutritional zeros” later in the day. With these Sticks ‘n Stones, protecting yourself has never tasted so yummy!

-The perfect salty snack!

Blueberry Almond Bites
Thanks to their dark skin, blueberries are considered one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits. These bites are a great way to enjoy the nutrient-packed flavor of blueberries all year round. Our Blueberry Almond Bites taste great crumbled over yogurt!

-I just tasted these. They taste like rice cakes (which I like) but with more texture. The almonds and dried blueberries are very flavorful. I just ate them as a snack but may try to crumble some over plain Greek yogurt per the suggestion from Nature Box. 

If you want to try Nature Box yourself, there is a 25% promo code for your first month in one of the pictures above, just use REFER25. Enjoy and stay tuned for November's Nature Box. 

Happy Halloween Photo Diary

Happy Halloween! In addition to my 31 Days of Halloween complete with crafts and recipes, I just wanted to share a few other fun photos from my Halloween celebrations this year.

I celebrated with two costumes this season. First up was my Sun Drop Girl costume. My friend Sam was the Sun Drop Guy. Unfortunately we didn't get a great picture, we only had cell phones and the spooky lighting made it tough. You get the idea though. Our inspiration came from the now famous Sun Drop commercials. See the short film below to get an essence of the characters. We truly embodied them by dancing around the whole night. I downloaded " Drop It Like It's Hot" to my phone and Sam downloaded "Too Much Booty in the Pants."

I had to show a full length picture too for the full effect.

My next costume was a classic. I went as the Scream killer. This costume was a "sexy" take on the original with a shorter robe and the mask was on a stick like a masquerade mask so I didn't have to wear it the whole night. I paired the shorter robe with black biker boots. I also had a fake knife as an accessory.

Here I am killing Honey Boo Boo. Her costume was fantastic by the way! She had every detail down!

I love picking out costumes for Chloe each year. This one is super cute, mostly because of the treats and candy corn inside the skeleton.

Chloe also got her own Jack-O-Lantern rawhides as a treat!

I found these adorable koozies at the Dollar Tree for only 50 cents each. Love the phrase: Eat Drink and Be Scary!

This "Shot in the Arm" shot glass set was a random find at the grocery store. I don't know why but I loved it! It's a skeleton arm with shot glasses in it. Very fun!

This orange fizz punch is made with ginger ale and an orange fizz packet that came with the cauldron. I added vodka to make it adult. When you first add the fizz packet, it bubbles up and looks super cool. Unfortunately I wasn't ready with the camera in time and it only lasted a few seconds. The end result was delicious orange soda tasting punch though!

31 Days of Halloween: BONUS

For a bonus post on my 31 days of Halloween, I wanted to actually do something with the Candy Corn Vodka I made. There were a few different recipes for Candy Corn Martinis so I decided to try a couple different ones.

Candy Corn Martini #1 Ingredients:
1 C Candy Corn Vodka
1/4 C butterscotch schnapps
Egg White (optional, I chose not to use it)
Candy Corn for garnish

Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice and pour in a martini glass with a few candy corn in the bottom.

This one tasted exactly like candy corn in liquid form and was absolutely delicious.

Candy Corn Martini #2 Ingredients:
3 ounces Candy Corn Vodka
3 ounces Absolut Vanilla Vodka
1 ounce of Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
2 tablespoons of sugar (for rimming the glass)

Candy Corn for garnish

Rim the glass with liquor of your choice and dip in sugar. Then add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and pour into prepared glasses. Add candy corn at the bottom if desired.

-The Grand Marnier had a powerful presence in this one. I was surprised since the portion was a 1/3 of the other liquors. It was quite tasty still but didn't taste as much like candy corn as the first especially considering candy corn has no orange flavor. The sugared rim was a nice touch though.

Candy Corn Cordial Ingredients:
3 oz Candy Corn Vodka
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
Juice of 1 Lemon
Splash of Lemon-Lime Soda
Candy Corn for garnish

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with candy corn.

-This one is definitely too lemony, I didn't have a whole lemon so I just squired some lemon juice in there. It might taste a little more like candy corn than the second one but I think in order of liking them, we'll go 1, 2, 3.

31 Days of Halloween Summary

31 Days of Halloween has officially become my longest blog challenge! It even beat the 30 Day Photography Challenge. I sometimes would miss a day but I would always catch up. While it was long, it was definitely fun to come up with recipes and crafts for one of my favorite time's of year. Next year I may cut it back to 13 Days of Halloween or something a little shorter. We shall see!

Day 1: Halloween Countdown Calendar
Day 2: Spider Candle
Day 3: One Eyed One Armed Flying Purple People Eater
Day 4: Caramel Apple Martinis
Day 5: Candy Corn Hurricane Vase
Day 6: Mummy Mason Jar
Day 7: Jack-O-Lantern Wine Glass
Day 8: Candy Corn Vodka
Day 9: Green Slime
Day 10: Halloween Character Candy Dishes
Day 11: Glitter Spiderweb
Day 12: Jack-O-Lantern Drink
Day 13: Syrup Spritzer
Day 14: Halloween Party Guide
Day 15: Pumpkin Mudslide
Day 16: Ghost Martini
Day 17: Drunk Gummy Body Parts & Skeletons
Day 18: Tootsie Pop Ghosts
Day 19: Bloodshot Eyeball Deviled Eggs
Day 20: Witch Hat Cookies
Day 21: Skeleton Favors
Day 22: Halloween S'mores
Day 23: Skeleton Trophies
Day 24: Pumpkin Fluff Dip
Day 25: Goblin Mimosa
Day 26: Jack-O-Lantern Dip
Day 27: RIP Dessert
Day 28: Vampire Fang Napkin Rings
Day 29: Pumpkin Pie Almonds
Day 30: Candy Corn Pizza
Day 31: Pumpkin Beer Pretzels and Sweet Pumpkin Dip
BONUS: Candy Corn Martinis and Cordial

31 Days of Halloween: Day 31

For the final day of my 31 Days of Halloween, I made pumpkin beer pretzels with a Greek yogurt pumpkin dip.

1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 t)
1/2 C warm water, plus 2 C warm water
1/2 T sugar
1/2 t fine sea salt
1 t olive oil
1 C pumpkin beer of your choice (I used Post Road Pumpkin Ale)
3-4 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 egg, beaten
2-3 T coarse salt
1 T butter, melted

Step 1: In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over your 1/2 cup of warm water. Let rest for about 5 minutes.
Then stir in sugar, salt, and olive oil. Pour in the beer.

Step 2: With a wooden spoon, stir the flour in one cup at a time. You don’t want your dough to be too sticky, but you don’t want it to be too dry either. I started by adding 3 cups of flour which seemed to be enough.

Step 3: Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 8 minutes.

Step 4: Once you’re done kneading, place your dough into a lightly oiled bowl.

Step 5: Place bowl in a warm spot, cover with a kitchen towel, and let sit for about an hour to rise.

Step 6: Once the dough is risen, punch it down and you’re ready to form the pretzels. Start by dividing the dough into 12 balls, so you can make sure your pretzels will all be relatively the same size.

Step 7: Take one dough ball and roll it into a rope and form into a pretzel shape.

Step 8: Mix your remaining 2 C warm water with 1 t baking soda in a baking pan or other shallow dish. Dip the formed pretzels in. And then place on a greased baking sheet.

Step 9: Cover with a kitchen towel again and let rise for another 20 minutes.

Step 10: Brush each pretzel lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Step 11: Pop in the oven at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Step 12: Right when they come out of the oven, brush them with a little melted butter and let cool.

Sweet Pumpkin Dip Ingredients:
1/2 C pure pumpkin
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg

Mix all the dip ingredients together and place in the fridge until ready to use.

These weren't my favorite but they tasted decent. There was a recipe for a pumpkin beer mustard dip but I failed at making it. I think it's because I don't have a food processor for the mustard seeds. To reheat the pretzels, I just popped them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Multi-Bean Slow Cooker Soup

We purchased a variety of dry beans along with some vegetable broth to make some type of multi-bean soup. I found a few recipes but didn't have all the ingredients so I decided to make up my own with random ingredients I had.

5 cans of vegetable broth
32 oz. of layered beans (6 different types)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 packet of dry onion soup mix
4 cups sliced mushrooms
2 large kale leaves ripped up
1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained

Step 1: Mix all ingredients except tomatoes in a 5 qt. slow cooker

Step 2: Cover, cook on low setting for 8 hours

Step 3: Stir in tomatoes, set on high and cook for additional 15 minutes

This recipe ended up tasting quite delicious. I paired it with cheesey-garlic biscuits (Red Lobster Style). Sour cream makes a great topping!

31 Days of Halloween: Day 30

For day thirty of my 31 Days of Halloween, I made a candy corn pizza. It's not as gross as it sounds, it's only meant to look like candy corn, there isn't any actual candy corn in or on the pizza.

1 can (13.8 oz) refrigerated classic pizza crust or your favorite homemade dough
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup pizza sauce

I didn't really follow the exact measurements on the sauce and cheese.

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Step 2: Spray a pizza pan with cooking spray and pres the dough into a round pizza pan.

Step 3: Sprinkle mozzarella cheese in a circle in the center of the dough.

Step 4: Sprinkle a ring of cheddar cheese around the mozzarella circle.

Step 5: Spoon pizza sauce on top of the cheddar cheese and around the rest of the pizza, just leaving a ring around the outer edge for crust.

Step 6: Sprinkle the rest of the cheddar cheese around the edge of the sauce circle.

Step 7: Pop in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Step 8: Cut into slices to resemble candy corn.

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 Days of Halloween: Day 29

For day twenty-nine of my 31 Days of Halloween, I made a  batch of Pumpkin Pie Almonds.

2 cups of raw almonds (I used a 1 lb bag which ended up being a little more than 2 cups)
3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice seasoning
4 tablespoons of organic agave or honey (I used honey)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Sea Salt

Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil

Step 2: Place almonds in a bowl and mix with everything except the sea salt. Make sure almonds are coated.

Step 3: Spread coated almonds onto baking sheet covered in foil. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Step 4: Bake 15-18 minutes. Let cool and serve.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days of Halloween: Day 28

For day twenty-eight of my 31 Days of Halloween, I have a fun dinner party tip. Take fake vampire teeth and use them as napkin ring holders. They look great with black napkins. The pack I bought came with green, purple, orange and black teeth.

31 Days of Halloween: Day 27

For day twenty-seven of my 31 Days of Halloween, I made these cute graveyard desserts. I originally saw something similar to these on Pinterest but it was a super complicated fancy recipe for everything. I came up with this simple way to make them that look just as cute.

Chocolate pudding
Crushed mini Oreos
Milano cookies
Black icing
Clear plastic solo cups

Step 1: Take a plastic solo cup and fill two-thirds of the way with chocolate pudding.

Step 2: Crush up some mini Oreos and sprinkle on top of the pudding to fill the rest of the cup up.

Step 3: Write RIP on a Milano cookie with black icing and place on top of the crushed Oreos.

The end result is a cute graveyard dessert or snack, perfect for any Halloween party or get together.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 Days of Halloween: Day 26

For day twenty-six of my 31 Days of Halloween, I'm sharing another recipe my friend made for her Halloween party. This one I found on It's a 7-layer style dip that's made to look like a jack-o-lantern!

1 can (16 oz) Old El Paso® Refried Beans
1 4.5 can chopped Old El Paso® Green Chilies
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large avocado
1/2 cup black beans
1 cup Old El Paso® Salsa (mild or medium)
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
3 blue corn tortilla chips
17 sliced black olives

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350F.
Step 2: In a greased deep pie dish, spread the refried beans and then layer on the green chilies.
Step 3: Mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, and avocado together in a medium bowl. Mix until the avocado is smooth with very few chunks.
Step 4: Layer the avocado mixture on top of the chilies.
Step 5: Combine the black beans and salsa and spread on top of the avocado layer.
Step 6: Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes - until heated through and bubbly.
Step 7: Decorate the top of the dip with three tortilla chips forming the eyes and nose of the jack-o-lantern.
Step 8: Use sliced olives to form a mouth.
Step 9: Serve hot with remaining blue tortilla chips.