Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Palmolive Soft Touch Review

This product was sent to me for review by Influenster.  

As I mentioned in my post on how to get free stuff, I belong to Influenster, which is a program that sends products for you to test out in the hopes that you will talk about them with your friends and social media followers.  If you are interested in Influenster, let me know - I still have some invites!

The package had some problems getting here...both bottles leaked in transit, and the top of the pink bottle was completely broken.  Sounds like I'm not the only one with this problem.  Influenster recognized it in later emails, but I don't think there are any plans to send out replacements (or if they are, they didn't tell me).  

No worries though...I washed off the bottles and attacked my giant sinkful of dishes.  I am not much of a dish soap expert.  Basically if there are bubbles and my dishes are clean afterwards, I consider it a success.  For that reason, I generally buy cheapo store brand in some sort of lemon-y scent, or Green Works in Water Lily if I'm feeling fancy (yum).  I am not really picky.  I am pleased to report that both the Palmolive versions sent to me, Aloe and Vitamin E, resulted in clean, non-streaky dishes, and were pleasantly scented.  The Aloe is specifically for dry skin, and the Vitamin E claims to be soft on hands.  Neither version dried out my skin or wrecked my manicure, so they passed the Laura test on all counts.  
Adriana thought I wasn't watching her terrorize her sister.
The broken bottle was driving me nuts, so I decided to turn it into a fun kid activity.  The girls and I had a car wash one night, and they LOVED IT.  I can not recommend this activity enough - we could have done this for hours.  Lucy (repeatedly) got some of the Palmolive soap in her eyes, and it must be really gentle because she didn't freak out.  However, she did develop an especially nasty diaper rash a day or so after we did this.  I can't say 100% for sure if hanging out in soapy clothes did it, but it probably didn't help.  So I recommend undiapered bathing suits for all car washes going forward.  

I find these programs to be SO interesting because I really do think they work (at least on me).  While I was disappointed to get dish soap instead of an awesome box of makeup and beauty products, I really do think I will be more likely to buy Palmolive in the future (I am especially interested in the Coconut Butter one - sounds divine).  So nice work, team Palmolive and team Influenster.  I'm going to pay more attention to dish soap selection!

Friday, May 24, 2013

How To Get Free Stuff!

This post was requested by Megan, but I have been planning to tell you guys about some of these programs for a while now.  I hope you join me in some of these so we can talk about them!!!

First, the obvious:

If you really, really love a brand, be sure to follow them on Twitter or Facebook, as there is actually a decent chance of winning a giveaway on there.  I don't normally do this, but I have seen people I know from different forums win HUGE hauls.  I did win the contest on Julep's blog, but I would have never won that one without all of you awesome people.  

You can enter blog giveaways, which, depending on the size of the blog, you might or might not have a decent chance of winning.  I have won one ever (from Suzanne at bebehblog!!!), but I will never forget Lacey's post where she spent 2 hours entering blog contests and won a bunch of cool things.  You could also follow sites that list a bunch of giveaways, like this one, if you want to become a professional contest enterer.  

Stuff I know about, but I don't actually do, and am therefore not personally endorsing:

You should follow Danielle (LePooke) on YouTube.  She is actually doing a free stuff series right now, and I haven't had time to investigate them on my own.  Go watch her videos on Swagbucks, Viggle, and Gift Cards.  The last one looks REALLY COOL, and since we have such an awesome community of friends, I think we could definitely make it worth our while.  Or I could like, tradesies for Candy Crush need a ticket?  SEND ME A $6 SEPHORA GIFT CARD AND I'LL HELP YOU, SUCKAH!  

Megan mentioned she does Crowdtap...I just haven't gotten into it yet, so I have nothing to say.  Plus I feel like I am already spamming you guys enough with the other similar programs I have joined, so I am not really looking to add anything new.  

I recently signed up for MyPoints but I'm probably quitting because they send me too many emails.  

Programs I have joined but haven't seen enough activity yet to endorse: 

I am an allure beauty enthusiast and a Vogue Insider.  I have only been part of these two for a few months and therefore don't have much to say about either at this point in time.  Both programs claim that you get to test new products, but so far I have just seen surveys from each, with a chance to win for completing the survey.  Given their affiliations, I will likely remain a member indefinitely just to be on the mailing list so I know about cool things like the allure box.

I also joined the Pink Panel around the same time, and I have also only gotten one survey from them so it's too soon for me to know much about it.  

Programs I actually participate in and would recommend:

I recently joined Bzzagent, and I am loving it!!!  I am already in two campaigns - Tigi Bedhead and Dr. Scholl's for her.  My mom also joined after me and is already in a campaign.  This program is intended to create word of mouth buzz around different products, and seems to reward activities like talking about it with your friends and handing out coupons/samples just as heavily as using your personal blog or youtube channel to talk about the products.  For example, I think you only need to complete 2 of 8 activities on your campaign checklist, and 3 of the options don't involve social media.  They are also clear that any bzz counts, positive or negative.  This program seems REALLY well run, customer service got back to me in a matter of minutes, and the website is easy to navigate.  Highly recommended!

I have been in the Influenster program for much longer, and I have had as many Bzz campaigns in the past 3 weeks as I have in the past year in Influenster (I got the Mom VoxBox in June and I am currently in a PalmOlive Soft Touch campaign - they have yet to send me makeup).  However, I hear some people complaining that Bzzagent hates them and Influester loves them, so maybe it's just whatever demographic is appealing.  Influenster is very similar to Bzzagent, but I feel like you have to whore yourself out a bit more.  Or maybe they are better at sucking me into using alllllll of my social media channels than Bzzagent is?  That's probably it...I am Influenster's redheaded stepchild who just wants some makeup love, so I will do anything to try to impress them (to no avail).  I feel like I spend a lot more time answering surveys, writing reviews, posting pics, etc. for Influester with the exact same result as Bzzagent.  I should also note that I wrote to tell them one of my PalmOlive bottles was broken, and they didn't send me a replacement.  They have also completely ignored all emails from me begging to give me the Beauty Queen badge instead of the random stuff they assigned to me.  So yeah.  Bzzagent > Influester, for me.  But if you think you'd have better luck, I'd be happy to send you an invite!  I still have all 5.  

The last program I want to recommend is the one I am most excited about - the L'Oreal Consumer Testing Program.  This program is AMAZING.  You sign up at the link above, and fill out a bunch of surveys to see if you are the right demographic for a study.  If you live close to the Solon OH or Clark NJ facilities, you can get into the product evaluation center and do studies in person.  Otherwise you are eligible to test products at home.  I do the in person one - I am going to talk more about my experience in a separate post.  If you do the online one, you need to check back in on a regular basis, because the studies fill up fast.  DO NOT rely on Loreal to email you, or you'll never get into anything.  The best way to know if there are surveys is to stalk the Makeuptalk thread here.  You can also check out the pictures of what kind of compensation people were getting - this one is for a 10 week study, so they sent like $400 worth of goodies!  People have indicated that you need to have patience when doing the home studies.  It might seem like you get kicked out a bunch, but eventually you will be the right demographic for something and you will qualify.  Did you guys know how many brands L'Oreal owns???  Lancome, Kiehl's, Urban Decay, Maybelline, Vichy, Matrix, Redken, Garnier, The Body Shop, Clarisonic...probably a ton more I don't even know!  So I definitely think that if you do nothing else, you should do this so we can all enjoy cool free L'Oreal stuff together.  

Do any of these sound interesting to you?  Do programs like Bzzagent and Influenster annoy you, or do you just do what I do and assume that person just likes free shit and move on?  And who all wants to join the gift card thingie with me? I'm in if you're in!!!

Sephora Sun Safety Kit Review

Do you like how I was all "even though I said I could buy this on my no buy, I'm going to behave and not get it; you guys have fun" and now here I am?  Yeah.  

So.  Sun Safety Kit.  For those of you who are not aware, the Sun Safety Kit is an amazing collection of SPF products and bronzers/tanners Sephora puts out every year.  $20 of the $30 price tag goes to benefit the American Cancer Society.  You can still get one here, but they generally sell out pretty fast.  

Gratuitous photo of my kids sharing (for once)
Mine came in the mail yesterday, along with my 3 free sample packets and a deluxe sample of Clinique's black honey Almost Lipstick (always, always, always check the weekly specials before you order!)
The sample packet selection was really awesome this time!
You might find all of the products in the case overwhelming, so I am going to try to break it down for you by product category.  I will also let you know which ones are fancy and which ones are cheap, so you can save the good shit for yourself and slather the cheap shit on your kids.  Or vice versa, if you're a better parent than I am.  [Edit: this was MOST DEFINITELY a I feel bad so I am going to link to the good advice Lacey posted below regarding sun protection for kids (and grownups)].  

First up: The regular sunscreens.  These products don't claim any special benefits beyond sun protection, although the Shiseido and Ole Henrikson ones do specify that they are for the face.  I will probably use all of them on my face and neck and a regular water resistant sunscreen for my body, seeing as how it would take more than a tiny ass tube to cover my big ass ass up.  
Next up:  The anti-aging moisturizers with SPF protection.  I looooooooooove multitasking products.  I think it's never too early to start using anti-aging products, and your daily moisturizer should always have a sunscreen, even in the winter.  You really can't have too many of these samples.  I tried the boscia one this morning, and it was nice and lightweight, and didn't gunk up my makeup.  

Then we have the fancy primers.  Yeah, that's right dr. brandt, I am refusing to call your BB cream a BB cream.  IT IS A FANCY PRIMER.  I generally wear a moisturizer with SPF, so I don't really see the need to have it in every single product I'm going to wear on my face.  I find that when you start layering spf products, you get that scary looking white glow in all of your pictures.  I prefer my white cast to be made up entirely of my own natural pale girl glow.  But whatever, I'll use these up.  And I am finding that BB cream + powder foundation is a lovely combination when I want to look like I don't have cake face (or cakeup, as I like to call it).  
That spot in the bronzer is a raindrop.  I froze my butt off taking these pics.
The next four products are bronzers / self tanners with no spf.  Honestly, I have never really gotten the hang of contouring or bronzing, so I don't really need the Too Faced.  It smells great, though.  I am a weeeeee bit interested in the fact that the St. Tropez is for one night only (and a bronzing lotion, not a true self tanner), so that one will probably get used up at weddings this summer.  I'll give away the tarte - even if I was interested in self tanning that tiny tube isn't gonna cut it.  I may or may not use the dr. dennis gross towel...I have some Tan Towels sitting around too so maybe I'll try them all at once just for kicks.  

Finally, we have the other category.  Mineral veil is basically a finishing powder; you dust it over the rest of your makeup to set it.  I used to use it back when I was a bare minerals person, but it never really did much for me.  I am really excited about the L'Occitane hand lotion though, as I have been meaning to switch my regular hand lotion over to one with spf for the spring / summer.  

This is what they all look like in the's a nice one, I will definitely use it for all of my travel.

And now for the value... Sephora claims the kit is worth $210, I calculated about $162 using Amazon pricing.  Which is still an amazing value, but I hate when the advertised retail value is so far off the market value.  The Shiseido is obviously the big winner of the kit, since it is the highest value and one of the more generously sized samples.  The self tanning products are the lowest value, which makes me less stressed about giving them away / throwing them out.  I really wish Sephora would just take those out, add another high end sunscreen or two, and do a separate self tanner kit.  

Even though I bounced back and forth on this purchase, I am ultimately glad I did it.  I will use almost all of the products.  I love this kit and plan on buying it every year (as long as my sample supply doesn't exceed my sunscreen demand).  I definitely recommend this one (obviously, as I haven't shut up about it).  

Did you get the Sun Safety kit?  What is your favorite full body sunscreen for the summer (both for yourself and your kids, if you have them)?  We use Aveeno Baby on the girls and the regular Aveeno on ourselves (or steal the baby stuff).       

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 2013 Birchbox Review

I also got my Birchbox was a bit less exciting than the Ipsy, since this was one of the rare months where I actually logged into my account to see what products I would receive (I usually just look at the spoilers with all 35 boxes, not my own specific box).

Date of arrival: May 13, 2013.

Packaging: Standard pink outer box and brown inner box.  This month's theme is "beauty diaries", so the card had a little mad libs section that my husband is just dying to fill out.  I'm sure he's working on how to make penis a verb as we speak.  This was yet another half-assed theme as beauty diaries is pretty much meaningless beyond the fact that we all got pens.

Contents and mini reviews:  Curly hair products, eyeliner, shave cream, sunscreen, and a pen. says poo
I am not opening the three step DevaCurl hair system yet since I am currently testing out a different curly hair product for bzzagent (more on that later).  However, I was excited to get the Deva as I am always looking for a more affordable holy grail curl cream (Miss Jessie's quick curls = hella expensive), and these look reasonably priced based on the ulta website.  Plus I remember Noemi saying she uses the Deva stuff on herself and her daughter, and they both have gorgeous curls.  If it makes my hair half as pretty as Noemi's, I'll be a fan for life.  

I'm not trying the Whish shave gel or Coola sunscreen yet...I always that type of shave gel packaging for travel, and you can never have too many sunscreens (or can you...I'm taking this as sign #2 that I shouldn't order it this year).  I will say that I'm not likely to repurchase the Whish or Coola, no matter how many delicious scents they make - $20 for a shave cream or $32 for some sunscreen is insane.  

Smudgy and not smudgy
The Suman Contrast Eyeliner by Sumita is just a standard black eyeliner.  I'm glad I got it in black, since that is my eyeliner of choice.  It's definitely more of a soft dark brownish black rather than a black black like UD's zero or perversion.  It glides on really easily, smudges right after you first apply, and sets really nicely shortly thereafter.  Basically all of the qualities I look for in an eyeliner.  Haven't used it on the eyes yet, so I don't know if I'd repurchase.     

I am a big fan of pens, but I would rather get a beauty extra over a lifestyle extra any day.  It writes smoothly, but I will probably get asked to schedule meetings and make copies (and not much else) if I start showing up to work with a pen that writes in electric blue.  It's akin to dotting my i's with little hearts or using comic sans in emails.  This one's for home use only.  Would not repurchase, as it would take a lot for me to cheat on my pen of choice (uniball jetstream 4eva).

Value:  One of the lowest value boxes I've seen - $17.93 is a D+ on the Laura scale.  Is it just me or are the values getting lower and lower every month?

Overall impression of the box:  Nothing is really earth shatteringly awesome, but I will definitely use it all.  The longer I look at the DevaCurl stuff on the Ulta website, the more excited I am to try it out.  Everything else is just kind of a staple item to me rather than something new and interesting to try out.  I'd give this box a C.  

Overall impression of the service: I'll keep them at an A- for now.  I am glad that this month's box wasn't amazing as it will make it that much easier to cancel (I'm thinking hubs isn't going to get me a new subscription for my birthday, so I am definitely dunzo).  It's been a great run with Birchbox, and I have nothing bad to say about them whatsoever, but I have way too many samples and should really take a break to use some of them up.  No worries though...I'll be back!!

Like what you see?  Use my referral link so I can stick around for another month :) 

What did you guys get this month?  What is the most you'd pay for shave gel or sunscreen?  And if you have tried DevaCurl - what did you think???

May 2013 Ipsy Glam Bag Review

I had a three package mail day yesterday, woohoo!

I already knew what I was getting in my Birchbox, so I went for the Ipsy bag first.  Normally Ipsy sends all subscribers more or less the same back, with an occasional either/or product or color variations.  This month it became clear from the spoilers that there was approximately one zillion variations, and the MUT thread basically exploded with excitement.  People were adding second subscriptions left and right, and I even saw one person go for a FOURTH.  Insane(ly awesome).  

Date of Arrival: May 13, 2013

Packaging: The standard pink bubble wrap mailer, a card letting me know I got an Urban Decay Moondust eyeshadow as a thank you for providing content for the ipsy community (squeee!!!! and you're welcome!!!), a discount for $110 of NuMe styling tools, and the theme card (Spring Fling) with all of the discounts for the month.  

This month's bag is a super cute Missoni type orange and teal chevron print, which is definitely one of my all time favorites.  

Contents and mini review: Only one mini review since I am going to trade most of this bag...I got the UD Moondust Shadow in Zodiac, St. Tropez Instant Glow Body Lotion, NuMe finishing serum, Zoya in Blu, yaby concealer in buff, and Juice Beauty lip gloss in pink.

Direct sunlight on the left, indoors on the right.  Not pictured: sparkles out the wazoo.
First off, I realize it is insane to even think about complaining about a free $20 eyeshadow that not even everyone got.  I know I am lucky, and I am super grateful that ipsy thought this little blog o' mine was enough to deserve a bonus.  It's just that if I you were to line up the 7 Moondust shadows in front of me and ask me to rank them, I'd put Zodiac last every time.  It's GORGEOUS in real life (so sparkly!), but I am not really sure if I would be able to figure out how to wear it properly.  My makeup skills are not advanced enough to do Zodiac justice.  It's not you, Zodiac, it's me.  In an ideal world, I'd trade it for Diamond Dog, since I feel like I could handle that one, even with my rudimentary makeup skills.  Color druthers aside, I am still super excited to get to try out a Moondust.  As I said when they were first released - if UD were to put out an all Moondust palette, I'd be ON TOP OF THAT SHIT.

I am somewhat interested in the St. Tropez Instant Glow Body Lotion because it says One Night Only on it.  So even if I oompa loompa myself, it's going to wash off pretty quickly.  However, I'm not really a self tanner kind of person, so I might trade it with Deja depending on what she gets in her bag.  If I end up keeping it, I am taking this as sign #1 that I'm not supposed to get the Sephora Sun Safety Kit, since I would then have two self tanners that I have very little use for.  

I have SO MANY argan oils and hair serums already that I was really hoping to avoid getting the NuMe.  If I did get a hair product, I wanted the Macadamia Oil one since everyone on YouTube is in love with it.  I'm trading it with Ginger for her Pacifica rollerball, since I love me some Pacifica.  I just hope the gardenia isn't too similar to the Kai I got in last month's PopSugar box!  Either way, I need perfume more than I need another hair product.

I have no issues with the Juice Beauty gloss, but I am trading it with Ginger since she got the really cool Mirabella Shimmerati Shimmer gloss.  I am in love with the packaging more than anything else - when the first instagram pics came in with the shimmer gloss included, I was definitely like OOH SHINY I WANT.  

I got the yaby concealer in buff, which is definitely too dark for my fair skin.  I was hoping for ivory or vanilla.  I'm not much of a concealer person in general, so I am probably going to try to trade or give this away.  

Without and with flash...looks pretty much the same in any lighting.
Since I'm trading the first five items, I couldn't swatch or review them.  Blu was my third choice Zoya polish (I wanted Neely or Jacqueline), but I do think it's pretty and don't plan to trade it.  Which means I can actually test it out for you guys, woohoo!  The formula on this was great - completely opaque in two coats with no streaking or chunkiness.  Much better than Essie or Julep pastels I've tried recently.  I have always liked the Zoyas I have tried, not sure why I generally buy OPI or Essie when I'm getting a polish in that price range...I'll be more open in the future!  

Value: This month's bag rang in at an amazing $58.86 thanks to the UD shadow (A+), but since not everyone got the shadow we'll say it gets a solid B+, valued at $38.86.  

Overall impression of the bag: I was REALLY excited this month, so this bag was kind of a let down.  It was basically a collection of my least favorite of all of the options.  I get that ipsy now has more subscribers so they are going to have to do more box variations since they only get a limited number of high quality samples.  I also get that adding the variations this month was a fairly genius marketing trick, since people were adding subscriptions left and right.  However, it didn't work out in my favor this time and I have some serious bag envy.  A lot of people pick ipsy over birchbox because it's REALLY FRUSTRATING to get a shittier box than everyone else month after month.  I hope that ipsy continues to differentiate itself from BB by sending out fewer variations, I really do.  I also wish they would pay more attention to my profile beyond "white girl", seeing as how I know I didn't give any sort of indication that I want self tanners, and clearly marked that my skin is fair.  The bag gets an A since it has the UD shadow, but if you take that out of the running, I'd only give it a C+ (the sample sizes were excellent, even if some of the samples weren't up my alley).  

Overall impression of the service: I know I rated them lower last month because I was growing concerned over the quality of the companies ipsy was doing business with.  I think I just got pulled into the mob mentality and whatever rating I gave them didn't accurately reflect my true opinion of ipsy.  I had my one year anniversary this month, so I was going back and looking at the last 12 bags, and you know what?  Most of them were pretty great.  I am back at giving ipsy an A, and pretty darn close to even giving an A+.  I'll try to focus less on the drama going forward...and not just because ipsy gave me an eyeshadow, haha! 

Like what you see?  Ipsy has a new referral program and I'd love it if you use my link to sign up!

So what did you guys think of your bag?  If yours was completely Pacifica free like mine, did you shed a little tear?  What do you think of the bag variations?  

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 2013 PopSugar Must Have Review

I decided to cancel my PopSugar Must Have subscription after this month, so OF COURSE the May box was amazing and totally made up for the disappointing April box.  Grr.  

Date of arrival: May 10, 2013

Packaging: Same size box and same packaging as usual - white and bright pink.

Contents and mini reviews: 

The first item in the box was a cheapo little PopSugar tote.  Not the most thrilling item in the world, but either I will use it to house samples or the girls will use it for toys.  Whatever.  

The next item was the Giselle Mid Brim hat by Kooringal ($27.99).  I know a lot of people got black, but mine is graphite.  Definitely looking to trade for the black one.  I like the way the hat folds up without screwing up the floppiness of the brim.  It appears to be well made and easy to wash.  It will be perfect to throw into a beach bag this summer.  I think it's a tad expensive for what it is, but to be honest I would pay that much because this hat is exactly what I would picture when thinking "I need to buy a floppy hat for the beach".  The items I see in the store never match up with what's in my head, so I am always willing to pay a little extra when I find just what I am looking for.   

Next up was the Modern Margarita set by The Modern Cocktail ($7.99).  Not gonna lie - Justin and I zipped through this in about 20 minutes on friday night.  I tried the Blood Orange and Mango ones and they were delicious.  I also tasted a sip of Justin's Strawberry Margarita and thought it was really gross (really fake tasting, like cough syrup), but he loved it.  I elected to do one tequila shot per bottle, and Justin went for two.  I would have preferred if the little bottles were a bit bigger because with only one shot of liquor it was a rather small drink.  I should also warn you that the orange crystals for the rim are NOT SUGAR, they are salt.  Which would have been totally fine except I stuck a fingerful of it in my mouth expecting sugar.  Blech.  I like the convenience of these mixers, so I would repurchase.  

I then opened the Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint in Guava Berry ($7.00).  I have been a HUGE Pacifica fan ever since I received the amazing blood orange body butter in my January Ipsy Glam Bag, so I was excited to see that both the PopSugar and Ipsy bags this month have Pacifica goodies in them.  This lip quench is very nourishing, natural looking on my lips, and smells/tastes amazing.  I would definitely repurchase.  Enabler alert: If you are interested, the ladies at MUT say that you can get a free lipquench using the code FREEQUENCH25, and you can also stack on FREESHIP25 and BEAUTY20 for free shipping and 20% off (I assume you have you spend $25 but I'm not positive).  

I almost peed when I saw the next item - a Beauty Blender and some Blender Cleanser!!! ($23.95).  I have been wanting one of these bad boys FOREVER, and I am never one of the lucky recipients when Birchbox is sending them out.  I am SO EXCITED that I got one in a sub, because this was something I would definitely be willing to buy at full price.  YAY!!!

I also received a bag of Sweet Chili Tortilla Chips from Way Better Snacks ($1.17).  I ate these so fast I hardly remembered to save some for a picture.  They were absolutely delicious, but I am a lazy snack shopper so I probably wouldn't repurchase them unless it was stocked in my local grocery store.  

Next up was these cute conversation cards made by the one and only Mindy Kaling - Questions I Ask When I Want to Talk About Myself ($13.45).  Although I was super excited to see something from Mindy in here (I have her book, watch her show, I read her blog back when she posted, and she is one of the only celebs I follow on instagram/twitter), I'm not really sure if I would ever actually USE these.  I mean, I don't get to see my friends very often, so we have plenty to talk about when we do.  Maybe I'll bring them to next year's PJs at TJ's or something, since it seems like a slumber party type activity.  

The last item was a $30 gift card to Charm & Chain.  I was excited to see that a) it was a legit gift card with no minimum purchase requirement, and b) there were items for less than $30, so you could use this and only pay shipping if you wanted to.  First, I have to admit that I did use this right away since I didn't want the items I liked to go out of stock after everyone got their card, and I didn't limit myself to $30, thus breaking my no buy.  However, I did show some restraint...I really wanted this black leather triangle necklace from House of Harlow, and I bought this mini key necklace instead.  I think the triangle necklace is so trendy that I could easily find a knockoff if I wanted to, so I'm not too upset about my common sense kicking in and stopping me from spending over $50 after the gift card on that.  However, I am having a bit of buyer's remorse about the key necklace...I still spent a little over $20 on it after the gift card, and, if I'm being 100% honest with myself, I'm not sure that I would have spent that money if I saw the necklace in a store.  So even though this was a well done gift card, I would still MUCH rather have PopSugar send me an item they picked instead of making me feel like I am wasting $30 if I don't shell out some extra cash to get something I picked.  But I'm sure I will love the necklace when it gets here - looks like a perfect piece to wear with my standard black t shirt and jeans uniform.  

Screenshot of photo from Charm and Chain

Value: This box was worth $111.55 ($81.55 if you were able to resist the gift card).  PopSugar promises that the boxes will be worth $100, so they are right on track assuming that you are willing to spend more money to get the jewelry.  I don't know, I still have mixed feelings about this.  I think I am now officially in the "please don't send me gift cards" camp.  I want my box to be worth $100 right when sit my butt on the front porch to open it.  Still, even $80 for a $35 box is pretty decent, considering that this isn't a sample box.  C

Overall impression of the box: Even though I have mixed feelings about the gift card, I love this box.  I will definitely use almost every item in it (and I'll at least flip through the Mindy cards and laugh at her adorableness). I am PSYCHED to (finally) get a beauty blender, and I will get a ton of use out of the beach hat, necklace, and lip quench.  The food was not long for this world, but it was nice to get some snacks that I got to enjoy, as opposed to giving them to the kids.  The January marshmallows, February conversation hearts, and March peeps were not my thing, but Adriana and Lucia LOVED them - one of L's first big words was marshmallow thanks to PSMH.  So yeah.  Excellent box, right up there with March for my all time favorites.  A

Overall impression of the service: After reading through all of the past MUT threads and learning about how PSMH handled the fury over some one size fits all items (the thong and wrap from my unreviewed February and March boxes), I think they are really going out of their way to make customers happy.  I love this service and would never unsubscribe if I had unlimited cash flow.  Even the dud boxes tend to grow on you after a while, and the amazing boxes more than make up for the duds.  This box just makes me happy.  A

Also, 10 lucky winners got a clutch this month...if you got one or see a review of someone who got one, link below!!!

What do you guys think of this box?  If you are a subscriber, what did you pick from Charm & Chain?  And let me know what you think of the beauty blender if you have one!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Enabler Alert: Sephora Sun Safety Kit (SPOILERS!!)

Update:  See my review here!

As I mentioned in my May no buy rules, the one beauty purchase I am allowing myself this month is the Sephora Sun Safety Kit.  I didn't realize how fast it would sell out so I missed it last year, and it looked amazing.  The super sleuths over at makeuptalk have determined that the box will go on sale mid may (likely on Friday as a fan favorite, since that's what Sephora did last year), and that it will probably be at this link.  It was working a few days ago, but Sephora must have caught wind that it was leaked and removed the image.  Good thing I took a screenshot and LisaLeah from MUT copied the details!

This set contains:
- 0.03 oz bareMinerals® Original Mineral Veil Broad Spectrum SPF 25
- bareMinerals® Mini Flawless Application Brush
- 0.5 oz Boscia® Self-Defense Antioxidant Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30
- 0.3 oz Clarins UV Plus HP Sunscreen Multi-Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 40*
- 0.25 oz Dr. Brandt® Signature Flexitone® BB Cream SPF 30
- 1 Towelette Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare™ Alpha Beta® Glow Pad™
- 0.5 oz Josie Maran Cosmetics Argan Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 40
- 0.5 oz Lancôme Bienfait Multi-Vital SPF 30 Cream*
- 0.5 oz L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening Hand Care SPF 20*
- 0.16 oz Miracle Skin Transformer Miracle Skin Transformer Face SPF 20
- 0.5 oz Ole Henriksen Protect the Truth SPF 50+
- 0.5 oz Origins A Perfect World™ SPF 25 Age-Defense Moisturizer with White Tea*
- 0.5 oz Peter Thomas Roth Clinical Skincare Max Sheer Day Moisture Defense® Lotion SPF 30
- 0.169 oz Sephora Collection Age Defy Moisture Cream SPF 15 Sunscreen*
- 0.64 oz Ultimate Protection Cream+ Broad Spectrum SPF 50+*
- 0.25 oz Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer SPF 20 with Dermaxyl™ Complex
- 1.69 oz St. Tropez One Night Only Instant Glow Body Lotion
- 0.5 oz Tarte Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja Self Tanner
- 0.14 oz Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzing Powder with Real Cocoa
- Cosmetic bag  

* Not included in the slimmed down store version (possibly JCP Sephoras only??) 

The picture above is the one that will be sold online for $ seems that there is also a version sold in stores for $26 that has a few less products.  If I get it, I will definitely pay the $4 and get the online version, since it has some of the brands I'm most interested in (Clarins, Origins, LancômeL'Occitane).  

As excited as I was about this, I'm not 100% committed to buying it yet.  Perhaps the no buy is really working?  I think I need to sit down with my sample collection and look at how many products I have with spf.  If I can make it through the summer without the Sun Safety Kit, it's a no go and I'll save half the money, and use the rest for one extra lunch with my friends.  

What do you think?  Interested?  Whether I get it or not, I'll be stalking the link and tweeting when it's available (@lauradiniwilk).  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Baby Registry Checklist

I'm not pregnant again, I promise.  I just found out that a good friend of mine is having a baby (SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!), so I did what I always do and sent her my master baby shit list of everything a new mom needs, according to Laura.  I probably scare people off by sending this out left and right, but I just get SO EXCITED for new babies and want to help to the point at which I'm probably annoying.  

It suddenly occurred to planning is a thing.  Why not baby planning?  It's not assvice if the people ASK for it and are even willing to PAY for it.  I WOULD BE THE BEST BABY PLANNER EVER.  Seriously, I can not think of a better job in the world.  I read blogs written by moms for YEARS before actually having kids myself, so I have at least 10 years of training.  I could customize my plan based on the family's needs.  I am not even joking, if I were less lazy and lived in a real city, I would partner with my entrepreneurial friend and make it happen.  There HAVE to be people out there who would actually pay me to do this.  

In the meantime, I will post my OCD checklist, since my second baby checklist is actually my most googled post BY FAR.  Then I can just point people here rather than having to track down the spreadsheet every time.  Sorry if you already have kids and this is incredibly boring...feel free to add your 2 cents in the comments if you want.  

I have two kids - Adriana is now 3 1/2 and Lucia is 21 months.  

Basic Gear

̵       A stroller / travel system is a very personal choice – do your research and pick what suits your needs.  I like my travel system (Chicco in Cubes) just fine, but we don’t do a lot of strolling.  If your infant carrier is the kind with a base and you have 2 cars, register for an extra base.
̵       I recommend registering for the next car seat up as well (2 if you have 2 cars).  Yes, I’m really saying you should register for 3 car seats plus another base.  No, I don’t think that’s excessive.  You need this more than you need a million tiny outfits.  We have 4 Britax Roundabouts - 3 in Onyx and 1 in Cowmooflage.    
̵        If you have a small place and/or don’t travel a lot, you probably don’t need a pack n’ play.  I set our Chicco pack n' play up in the living room at first for daytime diaper changes, and then it went into our bedroom and Adriana slept in the bassinet til about 4 months old.  We still use it for trips or visits to family that don’t have cribs. The Graco quilted pack n play sheets worked on that pack n play and made it much more comfy to sleep in. 
̵       After not getting a bassinet of any sort (thinking Adriana would sleep fine in her crib)(she didn’t), I super regretted not getting an arm’s reach cosleeper right off the bat.  I am a big fan of not completely waking up to breastfeed 10 million times a night, and loved this for Lucy.  I got the one in toffee, which does not appear to be available anymore, but cocoa natural is.  
̵       Each kid is different, some love the swing and some hate it.  Both of my girls loved our Fisher Price My Little Lamb swing to the point that we wore out the motor.  Adriana hated the matching bouncy / vibrating chair and never used it, but it was great to stick her in there anyway when I had to shower.  You probably don’t *need* either and they are both stuff the kid grows out of super fast, but the swing really did keep us sane.  Get a crapload of D batteries ahead of time, there’s nothing worse than having the swing’s batteries run out right at naptime.  Or just get one with a plug.  
̵       Changing table / changing pads with fancy covers – I personally never used them and thought it was a waste of money.  Just get some cheapo waterproof pads and change the kid on the floor.
̵       Crib, mattress, dressers obviously.  You don’t really need the fancy bedding, but if you think it’s cute, go for it. 2-3 mattress pads, 4-6 fitted sheets, and 3-5 baby blankets should be good, depending on how often you like to do laundry.
̵       We only used our BabyBjorn like twice for Adriana (I held her CONSTANTLY), but used it NONSTOP for Lucia.  I liked it, but am a little sad I didn't try out other options.  
̵       An exersaucer or a jumparoo (not essential but can distract the kid if you have stuff to do).   They don't carry the exact model we have anymore, but it's a lot like this Fisher Price jumparoo.  Both girls loved it.  
̵       A play mat for “tummy time” (yes, it’s an awful phrase)(no, this isn’t essential).  We have the Boppy play gym...not this exact model, but same idea.  
̵       The dream baby extra tall swing close gates are amazing…not only do the extra tall keep the cats out, but we aren’t short and this is the right height for us.
̵        I have no complaints about this Phillips monitor.  Looks like the one we have isn't available but I'm sure the technology is even better now.  I would have loved a video monitor but didn't want to splurge.  
̵        I have no complaints about the Crane Cow Cool Mist Humidifier or the Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier.  I would probably go with the functional over the cute one if I had to do it all over again, since I'm sure they won't want the cow when they are older.  
̵        Diaper bag – whatever floats your boat.  Ours is plain and black so Justin doesn’t mind carrying it. 
̵        We have a diaper genie and love it.  Some people think they are pointless.  Those people don’t mind smelling poo I guess.  Register for 3-4 of the refills too, those add up.  

Bathing / Medicinal / Hygiene Needs

̵       I used the First Years Infant to Toddler Baby Tub with Sling for about 5-6 months, and then  we went to the sink, then the bathtub.  The sling is nice when the kid is tiny and slippery.
̵       3-4 hooded towels, 90 kazillion washcloths.  I love these Gerber washcloths if you can find them.  
̵       People will give you a bunch of bath crap at the shower.  Even if you register for the brand you like, they will buy what THEY like.  It will take until the kid is about 6 to use it all.  Have fun with that.  I prefer Johnson and Johnson's shampoo for that classic baby head smell, and we use tons of Aveeno stuff since the girls have eczema.
̵       Tiny safety nail clippers, like this one by Safety First.    
̵       Tiny brush.
̵       One of those finger toothbrushes to brush their little gums.
̵       Steal the booger sucker from the hospital. 
̵       Diapers, wipes, diaper cream.  I like pampers (with the line that turns blue when the diaper is dirty), pampers sensitive wipes, and desitin, respectively.  When she was older (4 months) we switched to target brand diapers and wipes and it was fine (and cheaper).  Make sure you steal diapers from the hospital…they send you home with anything that’s open. 
o        This is the best deal on pampers – one box of newborn is good before using size 1 or size 1-2: 
̵       Mylicon gas drops – we used about 4 bottles per newborn, this stuff is great
̵       Infant Tylenol / Infant Motrin
̵       Infant vitamin drops – we used this daily until the girls were old enough for flintstone gummies, so get a bunch if you find a good deal
̵       Thermometer – We use the Vicks Speed Read Digital Thermometer, and only under the armpit.  I’m not sticking anything anywhere else. 
̵       Vaseline if it’s a boy and you are circumsizing.  Or so I have been told.  I don't know why exactly, I make girl babies.  

Sleeping Needs
̵       We swaddled her – Happiest Baby on the Block dvd was awesome (borrow it if you can, you only need to watch it once.  Make the hubs watch too, Justin was SUPER EXCITED about swaddling after the video).  The girls broke out of the normal receiving blankets, but I hear Aden+ Anais swaddling blankets are awesome.  All other receiving blankets are too freaking small and are a waste of money.  OH and make sure you steal a couple from the hospital, those are nice and big.  We also liked the miracle blanket
̵       A white noise machine also helped the sleeping situation immensely.  We had both a Cloud b sleep sheep and a homedics soundspa.  We still use a soundspa in each girl's room to this day, but the projecter part is crap and broke within a month both times.  Still makes white noise just fine though.  
̵        I wasn’t going to do binkies until about the 4th night home with no sleep.  It might be wise to have some on hand just in case.  Some kids need to try out a few different brands before finding one that works (but the good news is that they will use them all once they are older and less picky, so don’t feel like buying several brands is a waste of money).  The First Years pacifiers are the ones that worked for us for both girls - they used to be winnie the pooh, looks like it's all mickey/minnie mouse now.  
̵       Sleep sacks til your kid is old enough to stand up, I’d recommend at least 4.  We used the Carter's Sleep Sacks.    

Clothing Needs...Carter's is pretty much my brand of choice for all of the below, until the kid can walk.  

̵       5 side snap t shirts in size newborn
̵       2 weather appropriate sleep and play’s in size newborn
̵       Then, for each size (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, etc)
o       1 5-pack of short sleeved plain onesies (I highly recommend carter’s over gerber or any other crappy brand)
o       1 5-pack of long sleeved plain onesies (during cold months)
o       1 5-pack of printed onesies and the coordinating 2-3 pack of baby yoga type pants (again, recommend carter’s)
o       An assload of sleep and play’s (seriously, you can’t have too many of these…if you need a number, get at least 6-8)
o       A sweater and a hoodie in each size (even in warm months it’s nice to have)
o       Socks
o       No shoes needed til size 3 or size 4…before that, socks are fine
o       In my opinion, you REALLY don’t need anything else (and you might need even less than this, if you like to do laundry more than I do).  Maybe 1 cute dress up outfit in each size.  Any more than that is a waste – they grow SO FAST and spend SO MUCH TIME barfing and pooping at home.  Plus anything other than the carter’s stretchy stuff doesn’t grow with the kid and fits weird.  But if you are like me, lots of people will buy you lots of stuff that your kid will wear exactly once and then it will take up space in a bin until the next kid gets to wear it once if they are the same sex. 
̵       I think Dreft is bullshit.  I use Cheer free.  My kid has really sensitive skin and has never once broken out from real detergent. 
̵       A coat for cold months and a fleecy jacket for cool months 

Feeding Needs

̵       I didn’t get a high chair at first.  We fed the girls in the Bumbo when they were super little, then the fisher price healthy care deluxe boosterseat.  I love taking that seat to restaurants so we don’t have to deal with their nasty chairs.  We did eventually end up getting a Graco high chair, so I definitely should have just registered for it in the first place.  
̵        A bunch (8-12?) of the Gerber cloth diapers for burping purposes 
̵        The kid won’t need it right away, but it’s not a bad idea to register for sippy cups and a set of bowls and spoons
̵        Once the kid eats solids, the only bibs that don’t suck are the plastic ones that have the little pocket on front; we got ours from target
̵        Breastfeeding stuff 
o        Pump of your choice (I had the Medela Pump In Style similar to the one I linked, so everything I link to here will be medela stuff)
o        I registered for pretty much everything in the Medela section…I ACTUALLY pretty much just pumped into the 5 oz bottles and then dumped any extra into the freezer storage bags (didn’t pump into the bags themselves).  50 of the freezer bags is the absolute most you’ll need unless you have superboobs.  I didn’t need anywhere near as much of the pumping accessories as I thought I did (microsteam bags, wipes, etc). 
o        Breast pads & nipple cream…I preferred Medela but try out a few different kinds.  Lilypadz are supposed to be amazing.  
o        12-15 5-oz bottles is good to start.  We boiled them the first time, then handwashed with soap and water after
o        Bottle brush
o        I thought it was really convenient to have an extra set of the breast shields and tubing – I kept 1 at home and 1 at work:
o        I recommend getting a set of extra nipples, caps, and rings off amazon, those things have a way of disappearing over time.
o        I prefer the Boppy to My Brest Friend (worst name ever) but each mom is different.  The boppy is good even if you aren’t breastfeeding since you can prop up the kid to drink a bottle or hang out.
o        Hooter hider…it’s shockingly hard to see what the hell you are doing without showing the planet your boobs.  I had the Bebe Au Lait nursing cover.  If someone is crafty, they could make you this for like $3…it’s just a piece of fabric with a hoop in the neck. 
o        The Itzbeen timer was awesome when I was too tired to remember when I last fed or changed Adriana…she’d fuss and I’d just look at the timer to see what she most likely needed.  I didn't really need it for Lucia, so it's definitely more of a first time parent thing.  There are also tons of apps that do the same thing.  

Stuff for your lady parts (assumes vaginal delivery)

̵        To save your significant other embarrassment, I’d buy the following things in advance (for after you get home from the hospital)
o        Giant pads…Steal a bunch of the giant pads from the hospital too, and the mesh underwear if you like them. 
o        Tuck’s medicated pads
o        Dermoplast
o        Stool softeners
̵        I lived in nursing tank tops and yoga pants for at least a month after.  They are your friends.  So is black underwear.  If you think you can picture the amount of post-birth fluids, quadruple it. 
̵        For reference: I bled for over a month, my milk came in at day 2 and didn’t go completely away until 4 months after we were done nursing, I would still wake up spraying milk when Adriana was 4-5 months old, and it was over 5 months before I could have pain-free sex.   Good times.
̵        The good news is that you will have an adorable tiny human to distract you from the grossness in this section.