Monthly Archives: September 2014

Yay for Friday!

Farmer Billy from Happy Street!  Image from Godzilab's Facebook page.

Farmer Billy from Happy Street! Image from Godzilab’s Facebook page.

It’s been a dreary week and I’ve had a bad cold, so I’m especially glad that it’s finally Friday!

Here’s what’s on tap for the weekend:

BACONFEST. We’re hosting the inaugural BaconFest potluck this weekend with some friends. The menu: beer and bacon-related foods. So much yes.

Happy Street. A new Happy Street update is coming out soon–hopefully tonight or tomorrow! Happy Street is my all-time favorite game/app. It’s an adorable town-building game and I’ve been playing it for years. The new update includes farm-themed buildings and characters and it looks so cute!

The new Happy Street farm theme!  Image from the Godzilab Facebook page.

The new Happy Street farm theme! Image from Godzilab’s Facebook page.

Birthday planning. My two sisters’ birthdays are next week, so I need to do a little birthday fairy-ing this weekend. Gotta order a couple of presents, buy cards, wrap and ship a package, etc.

Football watchin’.  I’m sure I’ll watch some football this weekend, even though Florida has a bye week.

Decorating?  I still need to decorate for fall!

Drive-Thru Fairy

Such a cool thing happened to me this morning!

So I went to Starbucks for breakfast on my way to work. I’ve been sick and a warm PSL sounded better than the cold Coke* I usually get (and love) at Hardee’s. So I pulled into Starbucks and ordered at the drive-thru. When I finally got up to the window to pay, the barista said that my order had already been paid for by the young woman in the car ahead of me!

This just made my day. I go through drive-thrus a LOT but this has never happened to me. I was kinda stunned for a second, but then I paid for the car behind me. 😉 I think today was only the second time I’ve ever paid for someone else. (I once paid for a car who let me into a packed drive-through line at a Chick-fil-A and it was so fun to drive off and imagine his surprise.)

What’s also funny to me is that I made special note of the car ahead of me this morning in the Starbucks line. It was so much like mine–crazily so. We both had the same cheap old car of 10+ years (same make, model, and year, with the same paint rust problems) and we had the same out-of-state license plates. She also had a college license plate, and I have a Gators license plate. We were just like two peas in a pod. 🙂 Thanks, sweet lady!

P.S. This just made me remember something else. At my first “real” job out of college, a group of us would go out and get lunch together every day. Men LOVED my friend Amanda** and total strangers would come up and pay for her lunch every so often–just out of appreciation for her good looks!  She had game on top of game.  😉

* Yes, I drink Coke for breakfast. It’s just like coffee–brown, caffeinated–but cold instead of hot. 😉 I went to a little greasy spoon diner on Sunday and the beverage list on the brunch menu actually listed “Coke (for breakfast?)…$1.95.” Hah! 😉

**Not her real name. We had fake names for when we out clubbing and wanted to be anonymous. Hah! This was her fake name. 😉

 

Little Letters

Penny dressed as a little referee for the Gators game!

Penny dressed as a little referee for the Gators game!

Dear Penny the Teacup Yorkie: You are adorable and welcome back any time. Even your tiny pee puddles on my carpet are cute. What is that, like a tablespoon of liquid?

Dear Cats: You’re big scared babies but I love you. Penny is gone and you can reclaim your downstairs domain again.

Dear Theo James: Hellloooo. I finally saw you in Divergent and you are scrumptious. And then to find out that you’re English?  That deep, gravelly voice also comes in an accent?! Swoon

Dear Gators: You made a good showing against a great team. Thank you.  But you better beat Georgia.

Dear South Park: Looking forward to your new episode about the Washington Redskins. Hee hee.

Dear Fall: Welcome! You’re officially here!

Another look at the little ref  :)

Another look at the little ref 🙂

It’s the Weekend!

Meet Penny the teacup yorkie!

Penny the teacup yorkie!

Fridays are my favorite day of the week (said everyone ever). I love the feeling of a week of work being almost done and a well-deserved break on the horizon. I seem to have more energy on Friday afternoons, too, than I do any other afternoon of the week. I might want to nap/veg after work every other day, but on Fridays I’m more likely to push through some chores so I can enjoy my weekend!

Here’s what’s on tap for this weekend:

Puppy-sitting! We’re keeping a friend’s dog this weekend and she’s a TEACUP YORKIE. Ohemgee. She arrived last night and I can’t get over the cuteness. The cats aren’t thrilled, but I am.

The Florida vs. Alabama football game. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m nervous. It’s on CBS, though, so we have to suffer through commentary from Lundquist and Danielson. Sigh.

Football-watching snacks. ‘Nuff said.

Fall decorating? We’ll see. The first “official” day of fall is Tuesday! I lit my new pumpkin candle for the first time last night and it smelled so good! I got the NEST Pumpkin Chai candle and I really like it. It smells like a pumpkin pie is really baking in the oven. The perfume didn’t irritate my eyes after a couple of hours, either, which I’ve noticed with some candles, so that’s a plus.

My Little Box

The logo!

The logo!

As part of my new interest in all things French, I’ve been actively (obsessively?) checking out the adorable My Little Box company.

My Little Box is subscription box company that ships to France and the UK, and it mails its (lucky) subscribers a themed set of beauty products and “lifestyle” goodies each month. The business model is similar to the American company Birchbox. My Little Box costs more than Birchbox, but the lifestyle items are definitely more substantial than the occasional lifestyle items included in Birchboxes.

Each My Little Box has a strong theme that’s usually centered around the season or an upcoming holiday. September’s theme, for example, is “My Little School Box” to commemorate the return to the real world of work and school after summer vacation. I think many French people go on holiday for the entire month of August, so I imagine that this reentry period is especially tough.

I checked out spoilers and reviews and this month’s school-themed My Little Box contains:

  • A postcard/small print of an illustration featuring a (presumably) witty or poignant French saying that I can’t read.
  • A notebook.
  • A matching pen.
  • A slim leather credit card holder for your pocket or purse—for ID cards, bank cards, etc. (in a cute little cloth pouch).
  • A larger cloth drawstring pouch containing three beauty products—a small bottle of perfume, a highlighting pen (think makeup here, not school supplies), and a facial mask.

Almost everything in the box is adorned with My Little Box’s signature illustrations, which are the work of an in-house artist named Kanako Kuno. Kanako’s charming and stylized work is a big part of the brand’s identity and popularity, in my opinion. You should definitely Google her and see what I’m talking about.

By Kanako Kuno

By Kanako Kuno

My Little Box also publishes and distributes a magazine each month called My Little World, and the company has its own line of beauty products called My Little Beauty. The boxes include My Little Beauty items in a mix with other cosmetic brands, too.

I think the lifestyle items, or “goodies” in My Little Box lingo, are what most interest me. I’ve seen photos of makeup brushes, scarves, hair accessories, desk accessories like agendas and keyboard decals, stickers, travel mugs, postcards, and jewelry. And I want it ALL. I’m such a sucker for this kind of thing, and it’s all so cute and unique with Kanako’s designs. I really wish My Little Box shipped to the US. I would subscribe in a heartbeat.

By Kanako Kuno

By Kanako Kuno

I do subscribe to FrenchBox, however, which I reviewed on this blog earlier this week. As soon as I opened the FrenchBox packaging I noticed immediate similarities to My Little Box. The FrenchBox contents were tied with a printed ribbon like My Little Box, and the FrenchBox included an illustrated postcard and a mix of beauty products and home/jewelry items like My Little Box, too. It’s clear to me that FrenchBox is taking several cues from My Little Box, so it will be interesting to see how things develop with both companies…

Quick Guide to Fun Freebies by Mail!

Yesterday was a great day for freebies by mail!

Yesterday was a great day for freebies by mail!

I love getting mail. Checking the mail is often the highlight of my day…and not just because I have an online shopping problem. 😉 A good mail day is just like a mini Christmas or birthday!

It’s no wonder, then, that I’ve gotten hooked on finding free samples. There are dedicated blogs and sites that scout out and advertise the best free samples available, and there are marketing companies that partner with big brands to distribute samples on their behalf. I started following some of these freebie blogs and signing up for offers a few months ago, and now I get something fun in the mail almost every day. Yesterday, for example, I got two cans of Gerber baby formula, a hardback children’s picture book (Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses!), and a small sample of body lotion. I plan to donate the baby formula to a food bank, send the book to my little cousin, and use the body lotion myself!

Here’s a quick guide if you’re interested in getting freebies, too:

Where Should I Look?

My favorite freebie sites are FreebieShark.com* and Hunt4Freebies.com*. These sites are updated multiple times a day with reputable sample offers. I haven’t had any trouble with the offers advertised and vetted by these sites (i.e., no email spam, no increased junk snail mail, etc.). I’ve also created an account at PinchMe.com.

What Can I Get for Free?

Here’s a partial list of the things I’ve gotten from these freebie sites…I can’t remember them all!

shampoo, conditioner, body wash, magazine subscriptions, children’s books, skincare product samples, nail polish, snack bars, vitamins, hair treatments (oils, masks), stickers, hand and body lotion, pet food and treats, small stuffed animals, wet wipes (for adults and babies!), feminine hygiene products, makeup, perfume (card samples and an occasional vial!), printed duct tape, chocolate milk mix, tea, coffee, K-cups, baby formula, cabinet safety latches, diapers…

But Is It Good Stuff?

Definitely! Here’s a sampling of the brands (and magazine titles) I’ve received:

Dove, Garnier, Sinful Colors, Skinnygirl, Martha Stewart, Glamour, Meow Mix, Snuggle, Huggies, Kotex, Duck Tape, Atkins, Nestle Quik, YogiTea, Starbucks, Lipton, Bigelow, Keurig, Gevalia, Working Mother, Forbes, OK!, Fancy Feast, Eucerin, American Crew, Mr. Sketch, The New Yorker, Gerber…

What Do You Do With It All?

The bulk of the free samples I receive are beauty-related items. I divide them into three containers–a small bag of items I plan to try/use, a pierced plastic bin (in the shower) of bath-related items I plan to use, and a large bag of items I plan to give as gifts or donate. Most of the beauty-related stuff arrives in foil packets, but a surprising amount comes in small bottles and tubes.

Samples can be used for:

  • Charitable donations (food banks, shelters)
  • Air travel (most samples arrive in TSA-approved sizes and formats!)
  • On-the-go supplies (stash them in your purse, car, gym bag, locker, backpack, desk, etc.)
  • “Grab bag” gifts for teens and tweens
  • Stocking stuffers
  • Supplies for overnight guests
  • Little surprises in mailed letters to friends

Tips and Tricks

Here’s a few suggestions for successful freebie-ing!

Check the sites at least once a day. Several sites have social media accounts or text programs, too, that you can follow for real time alerts for high-end or popular samples that will disappear quickly.

Be patient. It usually takes 4-8 weeks for most samples to arrive. That’s why it’s important to visit the freebie sites every day. Once you get the ball rolling, you can receive several free samples each week!

Create a new, free email account to dedicate to your sample requests. You don’t want to clog your main account(s) with request confirmation notices or marketing email.

Don’t sell out your friends. The occasional sample request form will ask you to provide names and email addresses for your friends—don’t do it. I don’t give out anyone’s information besides my own, or I give generic information and placeholders that will be obvious to the company, like janedoe@email.com. If I can’t figure out a way to sidestep the questions without compromising anyone, I don’t request the freebie.

Don’t sell out yourself. Some companies ask for your demographic information in exchange for a sample (like your birthday, salary, family size, etc.). If you don’t feel comfortable sharing certain information, or can’t sidestep the request in a responsible way, stop there and don’t complete the form. It’s not worth it. You could always try emailing the company directly and asking for the sample, too.

Opt out of further communications. Most freebie request forms give you the chance to opt in or out of the company’s newsletters, advertisements, and marketing materials. I always opt out where I can, unless I’m interested in learning more about the company.

Unsubscribe from unwanted email as soon as you get it. It only takes a few seconds and will save you time in the long run! Most emails have an unsubscribe link at the very bottom.

Program your smart phone with text shortcuts. This makes on-the-go form completion faster and easier. I’ve created a text shortcut for my email address, for example, and just that one little trick makes filling out tiny forms on a tiny screen much, much more pleasant.

Have fun!  🙂

* These sites also report on sweepstakes and high-value coupons! I don’t have the patience for either, though. 🙂 Also, I’m not affiliated in any way with any of the sites, companies, or brands mentioned in this post. I just enjoy the freebies!

FrenchBox Review – September 2014

My September 2014 FrenchBox

My September 2014 FrenchBox

What perfect timing. After my post yesterday about loving all things French, I got home to find that my FrenchBox had arrived!

FrenchBox is a brand-new subscription service and the September box is their first shipment. The company promises to send trendy French goodies each month—like makeup, accessories, and edible treats—and the website lists some high-end brand partners (Caudalíe and Sothy’s, for example). I got the first box for only $14, but the regular price after this is $24 a month.

The FrenchBox packaging was adorable. Everything was wrapped in a white, pink, and black color scheme, and the inside of the sturdy box is printed with little Eiffel Towers. When I opened the lid, I saw an illustrated postcard tied under a printed ribbon—which is exactly what My Little Box does (more on that company later).

I avoided all spoilers for this, so it was fun to dig into the wrapping and see what I got. The theme was “Grape Harvesting Season” and my box included the following items:

  •  Sothy’s nail polish in Fruits Rouges – Great brand, good red color, full size! Perfect name and color for the grape theme!
  • Sothy’s eyeliner pencil in black – Great brand, useful color, full size!

I’m so glad I got the eyeliner and nail polish. I’ve now seen other box variations online that included lipstick and lip liner, which I wouldn’t use and enjoy.

  •  Caudalíe Polyphenol C15 SPF20 Anti-Wrinkle Protect Fluid – Great brand, sample size. I’m looking forward to trying this, even though I think it has chemical (rather than mineral) sunscreen ingredients. This is made with grape seed extracts, too, so it definitely fits with the theme!
  •  Missiu Eiffel Tower bracelet in black – Yay! I really like this delicate thread bracelet. This brand is new to me but I did some research and it looks like these little bracelets are very popular right now in France and Italy. The bracelets come in lots of bright colors but I’m so happy I got the black—it seems the most French and Eiffel Tower-like to me. 😉
  •  Canvas wine bag printed with “Yes Way Rosé” in pink – This is pretty cute, but I would like it 100% more if it didn’t have a Whispering Angels logo on it. The bag is great quality and the motto/font/color are adorable, but the logo makes it look like a freebie. I had never heard of Whispering Angels, but I looked it up and it’s a popular French wine brand. I would give this bag as a gift if I bought actual Whispering Angels wine to go inside, but…Hmm. I don’t know what to do with this. On the rare occasion that I bring wine (i.e., cheap champagne or sparkling moscato) anywhere I usually bring more than one bottle…I usually bring it in plastic bags with other stuff like Doritos… #classy Maybe I can frame the printed part? Or hang the bag somewhere and use it to store small/long things?

The box also included a little bag of Buddy Fruits banana gummies, a product detail card, and a recipe card for red wine-poached pears.

Overall, I think I lucked out big time with this box! I got the variations I would want based on what I’ve seen elsewhere, and I really like the black bracelet. I think this particular box is a good value for me at $14, but I’m not sure how happy I would have been if I had spent $24 (or gotten lip products). I will keep the subscription for at least another month to see what happens next. So many subscription box companies (especially new ones and small ones) look cheap and random, but this one is starting strong with good branding, great presentation, high-end brands, and a cohesive theme.

P.S. I noticed that the box logo text is in all capital letters but the ribbon logo text was in mixed case. #neurotic

Francophile

Look!  I've built a little Parisian neighborhood on my Happy Street app, too.

Look! I’ve built a little Parisian neighborhood on my Happy Street app, too.

I’m on a French kick.

I’m taking French lessons on the Duolingo app. I’m watching lots of YouTube videos of young French women who give beauty tutorials and product reviews…even though I can’t understand a word. I’m following (and closely studying) various French people on Instagram. I also signed up for a new subscription called French Box, which sends popular French beauty, lifestyle, and food goodies each month.

I’m not sure where I fell down the rabbit (le lapin) hole, but I think reading Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott really cemented this latest infatuation for me. The book is an account of the adult Scott’s experience as a California college student studying and living abroad with a wealthy host family in Paris. She closely observed her French host family—especially the matriarch, whom Scott calls Madame Chic—to learn and appreciate the way they live everyday life. It was a short, pleasant read and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Specifically, I’m charmed by the way that the French:

Own fewer, better things. The French make careful, thoughtful purchases and buy only the best quality items they can afford. This not only applies to clothing and personal items, but also food. French desserts, for example, are small compared to American desserts, but they’re made of higher-quality ingredients and presented like little works of art.

Enjoy daily life to the fullest. The French may only invest in a few key pieces of clothing, but they wear their best clothes in daily life. They also wear their good perfume, eat the good cheese, drink the good wine, and dine with friends…even if it’s only a regular Tuesday. Food isn’t eaten “on the go,” either, or in a car or in front of a screen…or even outside of proper mealtimes. Instead, you’re supposed to sit down, take your time, enjoy the tastes and textures, and relish the break in your day.

Present themselves well every day. Scott wrote about how Madame Chic would wear her best clothing each day, style her hair neatly, apply her (minimal) makeup, and wear her good shoes—even if she didn’t plan to leave the house. This care extended to meal times as well, where the table was fully set for each meal and the food carefully prepared and presented. The French emphasis on good presentation isn’t about impressing others, though, or promoting a false image, or being “high maintenance.” It seems more about respect—respect for yourself and respect for those around you. By investing time in your clothing and grooming, you’re caring for yourself and appreciating your best features. You’re also showing those around you—family members, coworkers, teachers, customers, friends—that you care enough about them to put some special effort into your appearance.

I really admire these habits. They seem so antithetical to the American culture, with our hectic schedules, jam-packed houses, junky food, and disposable everything.

P.S. Jennifer L. Scott blogs at http://dailyconnoisseur.blogspot.com/ and has a new book—At Home with Madame Chic—coming out in early October.

Birchbox Review – September 2014

BirchboxSeptember2014

Birchbox – September 2014 – “Fresh Paint”

Can you have a personal blog nowadays without reviewing subscription boxes?  Or am I only reading subscription box blogs?  Whatever.

I received my September Birchbox on Tuesday the 9th–the earliest in the month I’ve ever gotten one!  I try to stay spoiler-free, but I usually have a pretty good idea of what I will get depending on the shipment date, my box history (Birchbox won’t send you the same item twice, unless it’s a color variation), my sample choice for the month, and the buzz on Instagram and online discussion forums.

This month’s theme was “Fresh Paint” to celebrate the back-to-school season.
The boxes were printed with bright geometric patterns to commemorate the
theme and Birchbox’s fourth anniversary as a company.

Here’s what I got:

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser Kit* – I’ve been wanting to try this and I was so excited that it was offered as one of the “pick your
sample” options this month.  The sample is so nice and well-presented in its
own little blue box with a muslin washcloth–it’s like a Birchbox within a
Birchbox.   I tried it and was instantly impressed.  I can see why this is so popular and highly-reviewed.  The formula is thick, rich, and creamy,
and it has a fresh, herbal scent.  My skin felt clean, soft, and just, well, fresh after using this–no dryness or tightness.  It didn’t get every trace of my eye makeup, but I kept touching my cheeks to feel how soft and clean they were.  🙂  This is a pleasure to use and I will probably apply my Birchbox rewards points towards the purchase of a full-size bottle.

Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy Gold Couture perfume – I think of Juicy Couture as a (fading?) teenage brand, so I wasn’t overly excited about this sample, but I was curious to try it.  I’m definitely liking it.  This perfume smells nice–warm, sweet, musky, slightly spicy–and will be good for fall.  It’s a little too strong for my taste right after spraying, but it smells much better to me after it dries and mellows out on my skin.  I will definitely enjoy and use the sample, but I don’t know yet if I will buy a full-size bottle.

Pixi by Petra Lip Balm – I wanted to like this because I love lip balms and
glosses, but I find the formula too hard and dry.  It’s difficult to apply
because of the consistency, but the color survived through a meal.  I got
the color “Ripe Raspberry” and it’s too bright and bold for my taste, even
though I know the point of Birchbox is to try new things.  Plus, the
twist-style lipstick tube applicator used for this product doesn’t hold the
product in place when I try to apply it.  The product falls and twists back
down into the tube with the slightest pressure.  Other people seem to love this balm and the Pixi brand, though, so maybe I’m the oddball.

Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint – I got the shade “Golden” and it gives my pale the look of a light, “healthy” tan–not bad!  The coverage is light but it definitely gives plenty of color, and it’s made with mineral sunscreen ingredients, which I prefer to chemical sunscreens.  I’m undecided, though, on the “luminizing” part of this.  It’s much more shimmery than I usually prefer–I feel like I look shiny instead of dewy.  Next time, I will try using less or using it more strategically (i.e., not on my chin and forehead).

Davines OI Shampoo (small bottle), Conditioner (foil packet), and All in One Milk (foil packet) – This is an Italian brand pronounced “DAH-vin-nace.”
The shampoo is a generous sample size and it smells good.  I haven’t tried
this trio yet but I’m looking forward to it.

Overall, I really like this box and will enjoy using and sharing the samples.  The Liz Earle sample kit alone is exciting to me!

* I recently read an article about how restaurants charge more money
for dishes that are elaborately named and described in their menus.  I think
cosmetic companies do this, too.  😉

Fall Bucket List

Image from www.starbucks.com

The Pumpkin Spice Latte is back!
(image from www.starbucks.com)

My Papoose creates a “bucket list” for each new season and tries her best to accomplish each goal before the season ends.  She started thinking about her fall bucket list last night, and I’d like to write one, too:

  • Drink a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. (Complete!)
  • Buy and burn a fall-scented candle.  (I’m looking at you, fancy Pumpkin Chai candle from NEST!)
  • Unpack the autumn decorations and display them around the house.
  • Go to a local football game.
  • Visit a haunted house or go on a haunted hayride.
  • See the Book of Mormon musical.
  • Watch a scary movie with the family.
  • Make s’mores.
  • Host our annual family Thanksgiving celebration.
  • Cheer on the Florida Gators to a national championship!

Did I miss anything?