Monday, January 9, 2012

January Birchbox - Clarity

Got my January Birchbox today.  I'm fairly pleased with it, I must say.  Got some pretty good finds that I would NEVER in a million years buy for retail price, but will get to try out ... and of course share with mama dearest! :)

So here are the goods:

The breakdown:

* Clark's Botanicals Smoothing Marine Cream ($115 full-size value)
* FIX Malibu Immaculate Complexion smoothing serum ($125 full-size value)
* Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal ($36 full-size value)
* stila Smudge Stick waterproof eye liner in Peacock (full-size!!!) ($20 value)
* LARABAR mini bar in blueberry muffin
Bonus Item: Birchbox magnet and mini detox tip sheet

I could have done without the LARABAR and would have received another deluxe sample, but this box is worth it in my opinion for the smudge stick eye liner alone.  I'm pleased :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kate Spade Twirl

I got a sample of Kate Spade's "Twirl" eau de parfum in my  December Birchbox, and it was the absolute perfect size to take with me on my New York City getaway this past weekend.  After a few days schlepping around the city wearing it, I have to say that I am in love with this scent!  It has a light, floral scent that is certainly not overwhelming.  I think that it's the kind of scent that just about anyone can wear - the perfect holiday gift for any 20- or 30-something on your list. (Hint! Hint!) My only gripe with it is that for an eau de parfum, it's a little quick to lose it's scent-power.  I could still smell it lingering on my skin at night, but not quite as strongly as other eau de parfums that I have used.  Nevertheless, this is definitely a scent that I can see myself wearing on a daily basis come spring and summer.  Bonus points for being contained in an absolutely adorable bottle that will look cute on anyone's bedroom dresser top!

Overall score: B+

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blinc eyeliner

Today I decided to try out the Blinc eyeliner that came in this month's Birchbox.  I was really excited to get this product, as I've been considering changing up eyeliner brands.  A recent Black Friday purchase was Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof eyeliner, however, the colors that were discounted were koi (a gold shade) and silver dollar (a silver shade). Fun colors, but I'm more in the market at the moment for a nice, classic black eyeliner. So getting the Blinc eyeliner this month almost seems like pure fate!  The only issue is that it's a liquid eyeliner.

Now, I've heard great things about liquid eyeliner, but liquid eyeliner and I are not friends.  I much prefer a kohl pencil, and that has been my eyeliner of choice for several years.  Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot.  With promises of staying power and crisp, clean lines, why not?

The promises of Blinc stayed true.  The eyeliner did, indeed, stay put all day.  When I got home from a long day, the liner did not budge or smudge from the morning.  Here is where I must say that I was thoroughly impressed by the product.  I'm an eye-rubber, and so it's typical to have absolutely no eyeliner left by the afternoon - it's usually on my hands!  So, that aspect was a definite pleasant surprise.  I mean, how often are the claims true?!

Removal is also a breeze, as promised.  I had to use a q-tip a few times in applying it this morning to clean up the lash line, and the product came right off.  Similarly, removal in the evening just took a swipe with a warm tissue and some slight pleasure.  During the day and with normal wear, however, the product stays put.  A-mazing!

The downfall in my eyes (no pun intended) of this eyeliner is that it comes in liquid form.  No matter how many YouTube videos I watch or articles I read about how to apply liquid eyeliner, I don't think that I'm ever going to be able to apply it just right to get that nice, smooth line.  Perhaps the old, cliche saying "practice makes perfect" will ring true as I continue to use my deluxe Birchbox sample of this eyeliner, but I don't think that I'll be ordering this particular product full-size.

Overall rating: B

Why can't something with this kind of staying power be in an easy-to-use pencil form? The search for a new eyeliner continues ...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Zoya nail polish ~ Noel

In this month's Birchbox, one of my deluxe samples was Zoya nail polish in Noel.  According to the insert, "This shimmery denim shade from Zoya's holiday 2011 collection fits just right - kind of like your favorite blue jeans."

Although I had never heard of the brand, Zoya products apparently have a positive reputation, according to my mom. Doing a little bit of research, they pride themselves of being free of toluene, formaldehyde, DBP (phthalates) and camphor. The absence of these ingredients, makes for a safer product.  (Formaldehyde is a well-known carcinogen - yikes!)

Sans-chemical status aside, I was a little hesitant about the shade of my Zoa nail polish sample.  Would it be "too wild?" but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the color once I put it on! I did a quick swipe on my pinkie finger and it is a pretty metallic aquamarine, almost blue-green shade.  I'm excited to give myself a full manicure before the holiday festivities as I know that this shade will look awesome with a white sweater and jeans or black pants.  Definitely a nice "pop" of color amidst the winter white.

That said, I don't know if this would be a color appropriate for everyone.  I'm still in my 20's, so it's still within reason for me to paint my fingers with more "outrageous" shades.  I don't know if anyone over the age of 35 could really pull this off without looking a little silly.  But of course, that's just my opinion.  I enjoy it, though, and I'm planning on bringing it over to my parents' house next time I visit to give my little sister a manicure, as I know that this will be a fun shade for her to enjoy as well.

Overall rating: A-

Noel may not be for everyone, but Zoya makes a wide range of colors to suit everyone's needs and in the end - it's not the color that really matters, but the quality of the product, right?

December Birchbox ~ The Welcome Box

Well, the title of this blog is "Books and Babble," so this is where the "babble" part really comes in, I suppose.

For the holidays, my loving mother got me a year subscription to something called a "Birchbox."  Essentially, each month I get 4-5 deluxe samples of "designer" beauty supplies delivered straight to my doorstep.  The idea behind the Birchbox is to try higher end beauty products without having to buy the full-sized product to figure out that you hate it.  And if you end up loving the product, you can go right on the company site, Birchbox, and buy it!  They even give you points for your purchases which you can then redeem for additional months of subscription or other products.  Awesome idea, Mom!!! :)

So today when I came home from work, my first Birchbox was waiting for me at the door.  The exterior box is bright, hot pink and very vibrant and exciting.  The box that the products come in is very chic.  I love it!  It's like opening up a birthday present - and I get to do this each month!  The anticipation of finding out what's inside is so much fun :)

So I opened the box, and all of the samples were nicely and neatly packed.  I can't help but wonder if the wonderful people at Birchbox package their goodies by hand.  They also included a little note welcoming me to Birchbox.  On the back of this note, there's a short description of each item included in my Birchbox.  This definitely helps a lot to someone who is somewhat familiar with different beauty products, but certainly no connoisseur when it comes to these things - especially hair products. (We'll get to this later, as one of the samples I received this month is a hair elixir.  That'll be interesting!  The nice thing is that anything that I can't use, I can share with my mom.)

In this month's box the lovely people at Birchbox sent me:
* Blinc eyeliner
* Kate Spade New York - Twirl perfume
* Orofluido - Beauty Elixir
* Zoya nail polish in Noel
* Deborah Lippmann nail polish remover gloves
* BONUS TREAT: Alex and Isabelle hair tie

As I try out these products over the next week or so, I'm going to share my reviews of each.  This is something that I can commit to on a monthly basis - though I hope that over winter break, I can get back on the reading band wagon as well :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Year of Fog ~ Michelle Richmond

A few years ago, I heard about this book and how wonderful it was.  Reviewers on rant and rave about how absorbing the story line is.  I, however, can't help but disagree.

In The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond we are told about the disappearance of Emma, a six-year-old girl who apparently vanishes into thin air at a San Francisco beach that she visits with her father's fiancee, Abby, one day.  The story then goes on to tell the story of Abby's search for the young girl.  One that absorbs her life wholly.  This is where the story sours for me. 

The beginning of the book truly is absorbing.  The suspense is thrilling.  Where could Emma have gone?  How can a child just disappear without a trace?  But as the reader continues, the story simply goes stale. The search seems almost futile, and when even the father gives up looking for his little girl, you can't help but wonder "When is it going to end?"  I can understand that Richmond may simply be trying to give the reader a glimpse at the despair that a family goes through when a child goes missing, but I simply felt as though the story just dragged.  I honestly considered just flipping forward a few pages and skim through to the end to find out what exactly happened to Emma. Alas, I am cursed to be somewhat of a book purist, and was determined to finish it in good faith, read completely!

The resolution to the story is more of a let down than the slow-moving plot line.   I was definitely disappointed with how the story ended, especially after spending almost an entire Sunday afternoon to just get to this ending and finally figure out what happened to Emma. 

All in all, an okay read.  I kept with it, so there must have been something to keep me going - but it certainly wouldn't top my list of must-read, top recommendations.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Help ~ Kathryn Stockett

I cannot even begin to explain how much I enjoyed Kathryn Stockett's The Help.  While I couldn't seem to put the book down, at the same time, I was absolutely astonished by how poorly people were treated in America just a mere 50 years ago!  It amazes me how far we have come as a society, but also makes me wonder how much more progress can be made in society in the next 50 years as in some parts of the country, the issues surrounding race relations definitely remain to be improved upon.

One of the written aspects of The Help that I sincerely enjoyed was the way that Stockett wrote the story from alternating viewpoints of Abileen, Minny, and Skeeter.  Abileen and Minny being "the help" and Skeeter being a young white woman fresh out of college with hopes, dreams and aspirations for her future that reach far beyond her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.  This writing style truly made the book multi-dimensional, and I absolutely cannot wait to see the movie in order to see if this rings true in it as well (I am going to guess not - the movie is almost never as good as the book!)

What struck me about the story that the reader is told in The Help is that, as I eluded to in my last posting about Winter Garden, this book shows that although society may deem things one way, the "popular belief" isn't always something that one should go along with.  At the heart of this piece of realistic, historical fiction novel is the fact that people should be independent thinkers.  Just because society says that something is so, does that mean that all should go along with it - no questions asked?  I say NO!  Throughout modern history, there have been incidents of prejudice against various groups - blacks in slavery and the Civil Rights movement, Jews in the Holocaust, Muslims in post-9/11 times, etc.  And yet, we as a society just don't learn, do we?  Sure there have been people who have chosen to take the higher road, and think for themselves to rise above the prejudices, but as is the case in The Help, more often than not, those few fail to the thinking of the masses.  Does that mean that people should just give up? I don't think that is so.  Rather, I think more people should fight for what they truly believe in to show others precisely the illogical thinking of their ways.