Margarita's Blog

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Little Lace Box
, $60/month, theme-based lifestyle box

Promo: MSA10 for $10 off your first box
I paid: $40

Little Lace Box is a themed-based subscription box.  When they started they promised to send at least one item by an upcoming designer in each box, and while they’ve drifted away from that a little bit, their boxes have usually been carefully curated and a great way to discover new products.  They have also been very high value.  Unfortunately, they sort of fell off the tracks with their February box and they decided to re-organize so that they could fulfill the dreams of the boxes they really wanted to offer.  They’ve increased the price of their boxes by 50% and they will now be sent every other month.   Existing subscribers are grandfathered in at the $40 price, however, giving us an incentive to stay subscribed.  This box was the last one under the old system, though some new subscribers also got it. It has a value of around $100 – which is actually quite good.  Hampton Lane, which sends out monthly food/kitchen boxes, charges $47 a month for boxes that seem to have an average of $60 value while Mantry, an artisan foods subscription, provides an average of $55 value in its boxes while charging $75!

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This month’s “Little Lace Box” was not so little. The box itself was probably twice as large as regular ones.  Most items came wrapped in plastic wrap, which meant that I had to unwrap each one, which was rather cool. All my items arrived well, but a lot of subscribers report that their bottles were broken and spilled all over the box.  LLB is providing replacements for those customers.  But perhaps they should rethink sending breakable items or figure out how to wrap them better.  I doubt that making postal workers be gentler is much of an option.

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This month’s theme was “Nonna’s Kitchen” so, of course, I knew to expect Italian food and kitchen products.  This was a nice assortment and every item was carefully chosen.  The box includes an information sheet that lists every product and notes why they’ve been included.  I’ve found that their stories help me enjoy the products more but, more importantly, help me stop and pay attention to little things in life.

Here are the items, in the order I took them out of the box:

IMG_20150424_150707Market List Notepad by Brianna, $5

This notepad was designed by Brianna, one of the LLB owners, to match the tea towel also included in the box.  Like them, I make lists all the time but usually in notepads with the name of printing companies or political candidates which I pick up at the Democratic Convention every year.  They’re utilitarian but not pretty.  This one is.  I am planning to use it for the final draft of my shopping list, the one I actually take to the market (or, more often, give to my husband).


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Porcelain Jewelry Dish by Stuck in the Mud Pottery, $15

They’ve included this dish based on memories of their grandmother taking off her jewelry and putting it on a small dish prior to washing dishes.  I don’t usually wear rings or bracelets, so I don’t really need a jewelry dish in my kitchen, but I’m always finding earrings on my bathroom counter so I’m planning to use it there.  I love the concept in any case.

I also like the dish very much but then again, I love rustic decorations.  My ten year old daughter, meanwhile, felt this was something she could make herself and didn’t think it was so cool.  Different strokes…

This dish comes in a few variations. Some are stamped on the top and others on the bottom.  The dish is supposed to mimic a piece of broken pottery from an olive oil jar.  Mine is stamped on the bottom, which I prefer, as it looks more natural.  They also come glazed and unglazed.  I got the unglazed kind which overtime is supposed to develop its own patina.  I hope so because my only complaint about this dish is that it is too white.

 

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Trentasette Black Olive Pate, $9

Little Lace Box often sends variations on items, and in this case subscribers got different flavors of pesto, sauce and pate from Trentasette, an Italian company.  I’m not a huge fan of olives, so I wish I had gotten the pesto instead, but I do like tapenade.  Unfortunately, this one is too strong to eat on its own on a piece of bread, but they recommend serving it with fresh mozarella – I’ll have to get some.  I did try it with cream cheese, but the flavors didn’t work well together.

 

IMG_20150424_150917Cucina Concentrated Dish Detergent in Lime Zest and Cypress, $9

Ironically, I think I would appreciate this item more if I had a dishwasher. Then I could feel all posh while washing my hand-wash only dishes with this expensive natural dish soap.  But I don’t have a dishwasher, so I’m more concerned about then performance than the style of my dish soaps.

So far this one seems fine but not outstanding.  It has a wonderful smell, which I do enjoy, but I think my old trusty Palmolive does a better job with both the dishes and my hands.  I’ll report back after trying it some more.

All that said, I am happy to have gotten this dishwasher liquid.  Again, it’s the sort of thing I would never buy for myself, so it’s nice to be able to try it. ]
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Belle & Union Co. Tea Towel, $15

I wish I had a way to display cute kitchen towels like this one.  I don’t, so I’ll just keep it to use as a cover for items I bring to a potluck.  It might even encourage me to go to a potluck. Meanwhile I’ve been using to cover all the bread I’ve been baking to eat with the olive oil and vinegar.

 

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Le Cadeaux Olive Oil Dipping Bowls, 4, $15

These little bowls are just darling and I loved getting them.  They are made of melamine, a hard plastic, and they’re weighty enough that I didn’t first realize they weren’t ceramic.  While in theory I like ceramic products better, in practice I think the fact that they are plastic means I’ll use them more often as I won’t be as paranoid about the dog and cat knocking them over.  In any case, I have already put them to use to dip olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

 

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The Ancient Olive Milanese Gremolata Flavor Infused Olive Oil and Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar, 60 ml each plus one oil/vinegar of your choice, total value $24.

I love flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars so I was thrilled to get these two little bottles – and even more thrilled to know I’d be able to order a full size bottle (200 ml) of the oil or vinegar of my choice.  I know I’ll order a white balsamic vinegar, but I’m not sure what flavor yet.

I loved the sicilian lemon vinegar. It had a great, bright and sweet lemon flavor. I got the box yesterday and I’m almost half way through the bottle (yeah, it’s a tiny bottle, but still…). I wasn’t as fond of the oil.  The citrus gave it a nice flavor but there was something else there that gave it a very unpleasant bitter note.  At the end of the day, none of us liked it – at least by itself on bread.  It may be better mixed with the olive oil.

 

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Filotea Pennette della Domenica Pasta, 8.8 oz, $8

I’m the sort of person who thinks twice before spending $3 in a pound of Italian pasta, so needless to say I’d never, in a million years, spend $8 in half a pound.  But I am very much looking to try it.  Actually, I think it’d be wonderful to conduct a blind taste/texture test.  I’ll get some cheap penne, cook both pastas according to instructions, add some butter and Parmesan and see if people can tell the difference between the two.

In all, I think this was a great box. I loved the curation and I love getting to experience some luxury items I would never buy otherwise.

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Target Beauty Box / $5
I paid: $5.50 after tax

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Target comes out with a beauty box every so often.  They tend to cost $5 to $10 and they usually include products worth several times that much.  You have to order every box individually – you can’t subscribe – which means that you need to be alert for when they come out for sale.  They usually sell out within hours.  The best strategy is to subscribe to the My Subscription Addiction blog mailing list and receive their alerts.  It was thanks to that blog that I learned about this box and was able to order it on time.  This box was $5 and had about a $21 value – not bad, in particular as we’ll use most of the products.

This also was not a mystery box, all the products were described in the order page.  This is what I got:

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SheaMoisture Superfruit Complex 10-in-1 Renewal System Shampoo, 3.2 oz, $2.70

This sulfate-free shampoo is supposed to rejuvenate and fortify your hair.  It gets fairly good reviews at Amazon. It has a strange smell, somewhat sour.  I’m planning to keep it as a backup for when I run out of shampoo.

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Tresemme Tres Two Extra Hold Hair Spray, 1.5 oz, $1

L’Oreal Paris Cosmetics Infallible Pro-Spray and Makeup Extender Setting Spray, 3.4 oz, $10

We don’t use hair spray so I’m not sure what to do with this bottle.  It’s too cheap to bother swapping. I’ll probably keep it and read up on how hair spray takes out stains.

My daughter already tried the makeup setting spray and she was very happy with it.  She said she had to rub it in a little bit but it works very well.


Maybelline New York Color Sensational Color Elixir Lip Color in Rose Redefined, full size, $5.40

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream, Extra Dry Skin, .25 oz, $2.20

The lip gloss is not very pigmented and pretty much matched my daughter’s lips, giving her some shine with a little bit of color.  It went very well with her aqua-color hair.  She liked it.

I had to read reviews to figure out what the “hydro boost gel cream” was.  Basically, it’s a facial moisturizer.  It is water based, so it absorbs very quickly without leaving an oily residue.  According to at least one reviewer it’s a very light moisturizer, so it may well work for me.  The sample is very small, but this was a very cheap box.

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Kloverbox, natural beauty products, $25/mo
Promo: BFFM10 for 10% off any length subscription
I paid: $25

Kloverbox is a monthly subscription box that sends you natural products.  Most of them are cosmetics, though they often send at least one other item. The subscription is $25 a month, which is pricy but the items are all very nice.  This month they had a combined value of $55, same as last month.   I’ll be using most of the products from this box.  I have unsubscribed from Kloverbox for the time being, however, because I have too many cosmetics.  I’ll re-subscribe when my stock goes down.

Kloverbox comes in a plain white box but the inside is personalized with your name, as you can see above.

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This is what I got:

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oldorchardOld Orchard No.10 Baobab & Rosehip Lotion Bar, 2 oz, $28

This solid lotion is absolutely gorgeous and I hear it smells lovely.  However, I’m planning to swap it so I’m not opening the tin.  While I like solid lotion I don’t use it often and I have enough to last me a while.  It’s also really easy to make.

 

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real beauty for a cause coffee scrub, 2 oz, $7.50

I don’t usually exfoliate my body, though it would probably be a good idea to do to my arms and shoulders at the very least. I’ve also never used a coffee scrub and I’m looking forward to doing so.  According to the manufacturer it’s rather messy so they recommend using it in the shower.  For anyone who wants to make a similar scrub, this one only has coffee, sea salt, avocado oil and cinnamon essential oil – so it should be fairly easy to make at home.

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Kosmatology Foaming Hand Soap in lavender eucalyptus, 8.5 oz, $9

Hand soap is always useful to have.  I’m looking forward to see how this one stacks up.  It’s made with a lot of different oils and potassium hydroxide, so it’s a true soap rather than a detergent.  I’ve started to use soap to wash myself and I’ve found it to be much more effective than beauty bars and body washes. It smells strongly of lavender, which is not my favorite, but my daughter loves it.

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Bridge Nine Candle Co. Citrus Candle Tin, 4 oz, $9

I’m not big on candles as my opportunities to relax, alone, in a clean room or in the bath are pretty much nonexistent.  I got a candle on a subscription box back in January and I must have burned half a centimeter of wax so far.  But this candle smells wonderfully, even when not lit.  I gave it to my daughter but I’ll probably reclaim it when she’s not looking and just keep it on my bedstand or my desk.

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Rani’s Yummy Shooters in Chocolate Buttered Oats, 1.2 oz, $2

My god, this is delicious!  The best 150 calories you’ll ever gain.  I’m not sharing.

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Urban Oreganics Brush Cleanser

This item was sent to replace the Urban Oreganics toner sent in the March box which developed a bacterial problem.  Kloverbox immediately asked subscribers to stop using it and promised to send a replacement product in the next box.

When I first saw this I thought it was a hairbrush cleanser but, of course, it’s a makeup brush cleaner.  I don’t wear makeup very often so I don’t have many brushes to wash but I looked at the ingredients and figured that it could be used for other purposes. I wrote to Urban Oreganics about it and they immediately responded letting me know that this is basically a mild soap and you can use it with a pad as a facial cleanser.  I’ll definitely give it a try.

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Escape Monthly, $50/month, assorted items from a particular county or city
Promo: Use HALFOFF for half off your first box.
I paid: $27 after promo and tax

Escape Monthly is a subscription that sends you an assortment of items related to a particular destination every month.  In addition to the items, you get a guidebook for that destination.  My first (and last) box was for Japan.  Escape Monthly has received a lot of criticism in the last few months for sending out low value boxes.  It’s an expensive subscription, and the value of items should at least comparable to its cost.  Still, I decided to subscribe with a 50% off promo after learning that April’s destination would be Japan – I figured there was a chance for many interesting items.   Unfortunately I was disappointed.  While I liked some of the items in the box, in all I didn’t feel the box had much value. In all, the box was worth $41.5, though a major part of it is the guidebook.  OK for having spent $27, but a rip-off at $50.

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Items come in a blue box with a little guide listing the products and giving you a few facts about the destination. Here is what I got:

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Moon: Living Abroad in Japan, 2013, $20 list/$15 at Amazon.com

I find it a bit disconcerting that they include a guidebook in every box.  Surely they don’t expect subscribers to visit every destination any time soon.  Perhaps some people like guidebooks for arm chair traveling, but I rather read traveling accounts.  In any case, I’ve listed the book on e-bay and I hope to recoup some of the money I spent on this book.

All that said, I have always been a fan of the Moon books.  If I was going to move to Japan, I’d be happy to have it. But I’m not.

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The Tao of Tea Sencha green tea, 2 oz, $5.50

The Tao of Tea no longer lists a plain Sencha tea in their website, so this may be a discontinued product.  In any case, I don’t think tea goes bad.  I don’t like green tea myself so I may try swapping this. Note: Escape Monthly had the retail value of this tin at $10, but you can buy a 4 oz tin of organic Sencha tea for that price.

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The Japanese Konjac Sponge, Bamboo Charcoal Puff, $11

This was one of the spoilers for the Japan box and the main reason why I got it.  I’ve never used a konjac sponge before, but it’s supposed to be very good for acne and even help with brown spots.  As I’m not currently using a facial sponge it’ll come in handy anyway.  Escape Monthlyhad this listed at $12, but it’s only $11 at Amazon.

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Japanese Wind Chime, $7

I couldn’t find this wind chime online, but similar ones retail for $10-$20.  It’s made or iron and it’s actually quite nice, though I’m not sure that the sound is particularly noticeable.  I’m not sure whether to keep it or gift it – though it’s hard to gift any item that I write about on this blog.  The wind chime itself says it’s made in Japan, though it came in a box that says Made in China.  Who knows where it’s true origin lies?

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Glico Pocky, in Matcha (Green Tea) flavor, 2.47 oz, $2

I like pocky sticks and I’m happy when my husband picks some up at the supermarket.  I had never had green tea flavored ones before, and I can’t say I enjoyed them.  They taste very much like green tea – and while I love green tea fragrance, the flavor is not for me.  That said I was hungry and I ate them all.  Escape Monthly assigns a $5 value to them, but you can get them for $2.  These are made in  Thailand.

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Sandalwood Fan, $1

These sandalwood fans are sold at stores all over Chinatown for $1 – and you can get them for less than that at Amazon.com.   They are made in China, so I don’t understand what one is doing in a Japan box.  Escape Monthly claims it’s worth $5, and my name is Yoko Ono. 

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BONUS: Japanese Chopsticks, $1

I’m glad that the box included a pair of chopsticks as these are always useful. Indeed, my girls fought over who got to keep them.  Still, they are worth $1, not the $5 Escape Monthly assigns to them, and they are listed as a bonus.

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Scentbird, $15/month for mini-perfume sprayer
I paid: $11.20 with expired promo

Scentbird is not a subscription box per se.  It’s more like a “book of the month” club concept, where you get to chose the books.  Basically, Scentbird is a combination decanting/subscription company.  They have somewhere between 300 and 350 fragrances.  You make a queue of the perfumes you want among those they have available, and every month you get the one at the top of your queue.  The perfumes they offer are mostly department store designer fragrances, with emphasis on popular ones.  They don’t seem to have any niche perfumes or those by smaller lines.  Most of the available perfumes retail for about $50 to $100 for a 50 ml bottle, though they can often be found online for half as much.

One of the problems with purchasing perfume is that it’s not economical to do so in small bottles.   A .24 oz rollerball of Marc Jacobs Daisy retails for $24 or $96/oz, while a 3.4 oz bottle of the same costs $94 or $28/oz. You can actually get that same 3.4 oz bottle on Amazon for just $51 or $15/oz, but you can’t find discount prices on rollerballs or small perfume bottles.  If you want more than a sample but not a full bottle of perfume, prepare to pay through the nose.   This price disparity has given rice to “decanting” perfumers, companies that buy large bottles, decant them into smaller ones and sell them to the public at a more reasonable price.  Scentbird plays with that model by making it a subscription service, where you pay a fix amount a month and get one perfume.  How good a deal this is will depend greatly on the perfume you chose, but Scentbird does seem to be one of the most economical ways to buy perfume in small bottles.

As I love changing perfume, Scentbird seems to be the ideal service for me.  Even though I know very little about designer perfumes, their website has information about the notes and suggestions about what you may like.  What I’ve been doing is looking at their suggestions and then looking at the reviews of particular products on Fragrantica, a great database of perfumes that includes comments by users on what they thought about each perfume.  Using that information, I created a queue with a dozen perfumes.  The first one, which I got today, was:

Un Jardin Sur Le Nil By Hermes

According to Hermes, “a stroll in the garden islands of the Nile at Assouan is the starting point for this new olfactory voyage”.  As I hoped, for I’ve actually been to the islands in the Nile at Aswan, that was just marketing language and the perfume mostly smelled of citrus.  Indeed, to me, it smells purely of grapefruit.  As I happen to like grapefruit, this is by no means a problem.  I’m certainly happy enough to smell it.  Or I would be, if the perfume stuck to my skin at all.  As it is, I must have sprayed it on me 10 times today, the last a couple of hours ago, and no trace of the scent remains on my body.  The sillage, on me, was also pathetic.  My  husband and children couldn’t smell it more than a couple of inches away from my neck.   I’ve had this problem with other perfumes, including Daisy, so I will just have to accept that my body rejects some scents (or perhaps just overpowers them).   In any case, while buried on my neck, my husband and one of my daughters agreed that this was a pleasant smelling perfume.  My other daughter – the grumpy one – said it smelled like lemon disinfectant.  She is wrong.

All in all, I’m happy with this purchase.  I’ll get to enjoy this perfume for a while, spraying it as often as I like, without worrying that I spent a hundred dollars on a perfume nobody else can smell on me.

Scentbird also has a “perfume of the month” that you can chose to get instead of one from your queue (my guess is that it’s the perfume you get if you don’t set a queue in the first place).  May’s perfume of the month will be Oscar De La Renta Something Blue. This is a perfume I do want to try, it sounds like my cup of tea, but people on Fragrantica report buying large bottles at discount stores for $20-$25, so I’ll just keep an eye for it when I’m shopping.

Perfume bottle next to disassembled case

Perfume bottle next to disassembled case

I do have a gripe with Scentbird. When you first join in, Scentbird sends you a case where to put your monthly perfume. But you only get that one case. It wouldn’t be a problem if one used the whole perfume in one month, but my guess is that most people who subscribe to Scentbird like to vary their fragrances, and it’s unlikely they’ll go through a whole bottle in one month. Now, I may very well do so with the perfume I got this month, but I actually doubt it. You can still use the perfume bottles you get without the case, but they are much clunkier and if you carry them around, you risk accidentally pushing the spray nozzle. As I have only received one bottle so far, this has not yet become a problem – so I will wait until next month to assess just how annoying not having another case is.

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Darby Girl, $19/bymonthly, craft kits for tweens
I paid: $19

Darby Girl is a subscription box which sends you a craft kit every other month designed for a tween girl.  It’s produced by Darby Smart, which also has a craft subscription box for adults.  I originally subscribed to Darby Smart to do crafts with my 10-yo daughter, but this month I decided to try Darby Girl instead.  My daughter liked the activities, and they were very well suited for her age, though the box wasn’t a great value ($21 total).  Still, I think we’ll remain subscribed to Darby Girl.

This month, the box came with two craft kits:

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Emoji Magnets Kit

This is a kit to make refrigerator magnets in the shape of emojis. The kit came with:

Sculpey Bake Shop Oven-Bake Clay, 2 packages, $2.5
Liquid Fusion Clear Urethane Glue, .66 oz, $1.5
3-pack Sharpie markers, $4
ProMag Flexible Magnets, 10-pack, $1
Round Cookie cutter $2

To make the emojis you had to roll the clay, cut it with the included cookie cutter and then bake for 10 minutes.  Once cooled, you decorate it with the sharpies (there was a postcard with suggestions in the kit) and finally glued a magnet to the back.  My daughter enjoyed making them and I think they came out very well.  I daresay some of these will be gifted come Christmas.  This is the result:

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The second kit came all in one package:

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AmiGami Panda Figure ($10)

This is a plastic figure in the shape of a panda that you decorate with the included cut outs and stickers.  My daughter loved it and wanted to get more of them.  Her sister wants one as well.  This is the result:

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In all, my daughter really enjoyed her Darby Girl box, was able to do the crafts all by herself and ended up with cute items.  She’s not happy she’ll have to wait two months for her next box, however.

Birchbox: beauty samples, $10/month
Promo: SUBSCRIBENOW50 for 50 extra points when you sign up
I paid: $3.50 (bought 3-month subscription for 200-points + $10)

Birchbox sends you five beauty samples a month, generally a mixture of skin/haircare and makeup.  It comes in a cute little box that you can re-use.  You can review each sample you receive for 10 points, and exchange 100 points for $10 off their online store, including gift subscriptions to their box. When you subscribe, you can fill out a questionnaire telling Birchbox which type of products interest you, though you may still get products you don’t care for.  Lately, Birchbox has allowed subscribers to chose between a curated box, that lists what samples are included, and a mystery box.

This month I opted for their mystery box.  The box itself was design by the Rifle Paper Co. and is pretty cute.  The contents of the box were more of a mixed bag.  On the one hand, I’m happy to try four of the products and the box didn’t include any hair care products, which I don’t want to receive.  It did, however, include one product made in China.  In addition, the samples were tiny and low value. The whole box had a value of $10.5, which is the same as the cost of the box without any discounts.  Not a good deal.

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Every box comes with a description of the products inside which includes the full size price. It doesn’t list the size of the samples, however.  This is what I got:

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Camila wearing the stain on her lips and cheeks.

Camila wearing the stain on her lips and cheeks.

Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain, in forever pink, sample value ~$5

This is a very light color that did not really register on my lips or my cheeks but it was cute enough on my 10-year old.  The sample doesn’t say how big it is, but as you can see by comparing it with the penny, it’s rather tiny. I was also unhappy that I couldn’t find any information as to where it was manufactured.

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Temple Spa Peace Be Still Calming Face & Body Balm, 25ml, sample value $2

Temple Spa is a British company which apparently is trying to make inroads in the US market.  The product is made in the US and distributed by Gilchrist & Soames, which make hotel toiletries and were recently featured in Birchbox, so perhaps the two companies have combined.  The lotions do share many of the same ingredients.

Bear in mind that despite the misleading name, this is a body lotion, and not a balm and you probably shouldn’t wear it on your face. The main ingredient is water and it’s heavily perfumed.  I do love the scent, however, and it actually goes quite well with the Yogini perfume below.  The lotion itself is rather thin and absorbs quickly, which I like.  It’s a bit too greasy for my hands, however.  That said, this is one of those lotions that is heavily overpriced.  I was also unhappy that my 25 ml sample was only 2/3 full at most.

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Real Chemistry Luminous 3-Minute Peel, 5ml, sample value $0

I’ve been into masks and peels lately so I was excited to try this product.  Alas, it’s made in China. Given the levels of corruption and contamination in China, I think it’s too big a risk to use any Chinese product on your skin.  I’m disappointed that Birchbox is sending Chinese products.

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Supergoop!® Daily Correct CC Cream ​SPF 35+, 3 ml, sample value $2

This was another tiny sample but it was enough to realize that it doesn’t work as well as the Epielle Aqua Tinted BB Cream SPF 15 I’ve been using. Sure, the Supergoop has an SPF of 35, making it a better choice for going out, but the Epielle has a better consistency – the Supergoop is too thick – and provides better coverage.  At least it’s made in the US.

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Harvey Prince Yogini perfume, 1.5 ml, sample value $1.5

This is the third Harvey Prince perfume I get from Birchbox in the five months I’ve been subscribed.  I’ve gone back and forth about Sincerity but I definitely don’t like Hello.  I do, however, love Yogini.

I’m not very good at noticing all the notes in perfumes (or even any of them), and I definitely cannot describe them, but to me this perfume smells like a grown up citrus.  By that I mean that it has a very refreshing citrus note, but it’s somehow tempered by others.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Fairbanks for three nights during our recent visit to Fairbanks, in March 2015.  We were in Fairbanks to see the northern lights, and the lights did not disappoint: we were able to see them every single night we were there.  Unfortunately we had waited to long to book accommodations outside of Fairbanks proper, which is why we ended up staying at the Hampton Inn.  It was all in all a nice place to stay, but if it’s the northern lights you are after, you don’t want to stay anywhere in town.  There is just too much light pollution, and you need to drive at least 15 minutes out to be able to see them properly – which we did every night.

The Hampton Inn was a nice and comfortable place to stay.  The rooms were pretty standard, but the beds and pillows were comfortable and we appreciated having control of our own thermostat.  The rooms are nicely furnished and large enough for our family of four.  There was a mini-fridge and a microwave, which came useful for leftovers and drinks, and a fairly fast wireless internet connection (though it didn’t work our first night there, and then we had to authenticate at least daily).  The kids were happy enough with the cable channels.

The bathroom was large enough and clean.  There was good water pressure and the Neutrogena toiletries were OK.  Unfortunately, they were very stingy with them. They only left us a small bottle of shampoo and conditioner for the four of us.  Sure, I got more at the front desk, but not before I had to go conditioner-less after a shower.

The hotel itself has nice common rooms. The main room has a plethora of easy chairs as well as high central tables for having breakfast.  There is a pool, a gym and a business center, but despite the fact that I booked this hotel, in part, because of the pool, we never used it.

Breakfast was very good and the hot items were made in house.  They had the usual hot and cold drinks, small and not very good pastries, and bagels and bread.  They have two waffle makers and syrup, fresh raspberries, chocolate chips, slivered almonds and whipped cream as toppings.  I combined all the toppings on my waffles, and they were heavenly – better than what you’d get at a breakfast joint.  The hot items changed every day and included sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits with gravy and small omelets.  They had cereals and hot oatmeal.  All in all, a very good hotel breakfast.  They had the local newspaper for reading and hot coffee and tea available all day.

All in all, the Hampton Inn is a very comfortable place to stay, though not a prime location for the northern lights.

Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks
433 Harold Bentley Avenue
Fairbanks, Alaska
907-451-1502

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

Last February, prompted by good reviews on My Subscription Addiction and a $21 off coupon, I subscribed to the Cate & Chloe jewelry subscription box.  The box normally costs $40 a month and includes 2 pieces of jewelry lovely packaged in little boxes.  The jewelry I got was quite nice, but it seemed overpriced.

Someone had posted a comment that jewelry from jewelry boxes often came from Ali Express, a company that allows Chinese merchants to sell products directly to people all over the world, and I decided to check it out. It wasn’t too difficult to find a necklace that looked suspiciously similar to the Mary “Motherly” necklace I got in my Cate & Chloe box (reviewed by MSA in May 2014). But looks can be deceiving so I decided to order it.  It wasn’t much of a risk, while Cate & Chloe sells its necklace for $115, it was listed on Ali Express for just $2.80, including shipping.

Today, 35 days after ordering it, I finally got the Ali Express necklace.  The chains on both necklaces are different but here are the pendants.  I don’t have a good camera, so I had to rely on my tablet, but see if you can spot any differences in the pictures below:
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To the naked eye the two pendants are identical (except that one of them had a weird piece of paper in the back).

To be fair, Cate & Chloe does not make representations about the origin of their jewelry, but I don’t think anyone paying $115 for this necklace (or even the $20 it costs to get it as part of your subscription) expects it to be a $3 necklace from China.  I certainly didn’t.

While this subscription box was disappointing, at least I learned a lesson: Ali Express has very nice jewelry for very little money. And I did end up with two identical darling necklaces.

 

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Beauty Fix, skin care & beauty, $25/month
I paid: $25

Beauty Fix is the monthly subscription box from online retailer DermStore (a subsidiary of Target Co.).  It sends an assortment of full-size, deluxe sample and small sample products every month.  A card details the products inside the box.  This is my second month as a subscriber, and so far this is my favorite beauty subscription – and one of the few boxes I intend to stayed subscribed to.

This month’s box had a retail value of around $115, and I’m likely to use all the products, except for the foundation.  This is what I got:

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DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, 6.7 oz, full size ($26)

This oil can be used both as a makeup remover and a cleanser.  It gets amazing reviews, and can be used by people with all types of skin.  It has a pleasant herbal smell, reminiscent of olive oil, and it left my face feeling very smooth.  The price of the oil alone is higher than that of the box!

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Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Moisturizer, 2 oz, full size ($40)

This is another product that gets fairly good reviews.  Unfortunately I have many moisturizers so it’ll be quite a while before I get to use it, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

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Healthy Locks Dry Shampoo Powder, .6 oz, small full size ($12)

I have become a big fan of dry shampoos.  All the ones I’ve used so far come in a spray, while this one is just the powder.  I’ll update after using it.

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IMG_20150407_150118DermStore Lip Quench Sheer Tints in Coral Sunset, .28 oz, full size ($12)

REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask, .5 oz deluxe sample, ($11-15 value)

The lip tint has a creamy consistency but it was a little bit difficult to get smooth coverage for me.  The color is also much more suited to a young girl.  It looks beautiful on my 10 year old.

The lactic mask also gets great reviews and I’m also looking forward to trying it sometime in the future.  This is the fourth face mask I’ve gotten since I started subscribing to boxes in January, so I’m covered for a while.

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skyn ICELAND Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels, 1 pair ($4 value)

Laura Geller Baked Liquid Radiance Foundation in golden medium, 5 ml small sample, ($6.5 value)

Sunday Riley Good Genes 2ml super small sample ($7 value)

The eye gels get mixed reviews on Amazon.  They feel cool and relaxing but people report it makes only a slight difference with puffiness.  Still, I’ll give them a try.

The Laura Geller foundation, on the other hand, is a dud.  I put it on in half of my face and put a $2 tinted BB cream on the other half and asked my husband what side was better.  He said the side with the BB cream looked much smoother, while the side with the Laura Geller foundation looked like my regular skin.  I also very much disliked the color.  It was, perhaps, a tad too dark for my skin (I hadn’t realized just how dark I’ve gotten in my old age), but more significantly, it was way too orange.  It certainly did not make me look better.  I’ll stick with the $2 BB cream from Korea.

I am looking forward to try the Sunday Riley serum, in part because it’s supposed to help with hyperpigmentation which is a real problem for me.  The sample only has enough serum for 2 or 3 tries, so I doubt it’ll make much of a difference, though.

In all, this was a great box and I look forward to my next one.

 

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